Ennai Kathirikai/ Stuffed Aubergine ( eggplant)/ Bharwan baingan

Ennai Kathirikai/ Stuffed Aubergine ( eggplant)/ Bharwan baingan

Joaquin, the category 4 hurricane mercifully spared the inner city areas of NC while it unleashed a torrential outpour in outer lying areas and SC and submerged quite a few as well . We, in the heart of the city were subjected to cold and drafty weather and incessant rain. The entire week was under its onslaught and to add to its mix a housebound active Labrador , what do you get?  You might just have some America’s Funniest Videos happening right here ( unintentional of course !)…

Maybe I should send in a couple so I can finally hit the jack pot . M alternated between hyper playing in the basement and moping at the front door. Add to drinking copious amounts of water, it was quite funny to watch this one who would not hesitate to roll in pack of slimy mud ( mud bath anyone? Au natural therapy for shiny skin)  to recoil on wet grass. Wet grass really ? Go figure!!

So with soccer games and classes cancelled ( Really the fields were marshes. I could imagine a LOTR scenario. Frodo….step back !)  and a conscious cancelling ( is that even a term ?) of Sunday classes for the rest, it was a day or rather morning of respite. M got to have her bath – A2 and A3  gave her one  and joined in the soapy shower  and I could hear them laughing away like loonies. Yours truly got a bit sappy and sort of Brady Brunch kind and made this for a Sunday afternoon lunch !

Tender Baby eggplants are stuffed with a special blend of spices, lentils and one secret ingredient ( ha ha ha). Trimmed and cut to be filled ( or rather stuffed) with this special dry mix powder/ stuffing , they are then gently slid on to a wide skillet with seasoning and covered and cooked with minimal oil. Yep! You heard me right , reduced quantity of oil and yet these baby beauties pack a punch when had – with a bowl of steaming hot rice and accompanying sambar or with hot phulkas and tadka moong dal.

Prep time : 20 min    Cooking time 15-25 min       Serves : 3-4

Ingredients:

Vegetable:

  • 12 baby purple eggplants

Seasoning:

  • 1.5 Tbsp. of  oil
  • 1/4 tsp. of mustard seeds
  • A generous pinch of Asafoetida
  • 4-5 fresh green curry leaves
  • 1/4 tsp of split, washed, de husked Urad dal

Stuffing: to be roasted  and ground to yield coarse mix

  • Oil : 1 tsp.
  • Channa Dal : 1/4 cup
  • Coriander seeds / Dhania : 1/4 cup
  • Sesame seeds/ Til : 2 Tbsp.
  • Split urad dal : 2 Tbsp.
  • Dry red chilies : 8 ( adjust to spice level)
  • Bydagi or Kashmiri chili : 2 ( optional, yield rich red color without heat)
  • Dry tamarind : 1 inch piece
  • Peanuts w or w/o skin: 2 tsp.
  • 1 tsp. of salt. – to be added to the final mix

1

Method:

Preparing the Stuffing mix:

  • In a wide bottomed , thick non stick or cast iron skillet heat a tsp of oil and roast/fry the dry red chilies initially. Drain and set aside. In the seasoned skillet with remnants of oil add in the peanuts and tamarind piece, roast well and set aside.
  • Now sequentially roast the ingredients listed. You do not want these to be roasted all together as the sesame seeds are quick to burn by the time the lentils/dal are done. Trust me it takes only a few minutes , so do it sequentially. Worth it .
  • Set it aside to cool well.  Once cooled very well, grind to a granulated state aka coarse powder.  Add a tsp. of salt and mix well.
  • Use as much as required for the stuffing and a tbsp. or so to sprinkle some on the top. Reserve the rest of it, if any, as seasoning or topping for  other vegetables. Makes an awesome one for potatoes as well. And for tondli too. 

Trimming, slicing and stuffing the eggplant:

  • I personally do not like to retain the tails of the eggplants, hence I trim them out . And quarter them so they open like a flower ( take care not to slice them completely ). 
  • In a wide saucepan fill it with water and dunk these eggplants in them.  Why? Well if you do not you will black oxidized ones on your hands. Very unappealing:-(
  • Once the prep for all these eggplants are done, drain them out one by one and  fill them with dry stuffing mix you have prepared.
  • They should be gently pried apart and stuffed with dry mix. Because they were dunked in water, the moisture will help the dry stuffing mix to adhere to the eggplants.

Cooking the stuffed aubergines:

  • In a wide bottomed skillet ( use the one you previously used for roasting the stuffing), add the 1.5 Tbsp of oil.
  • On heating add the generous pinch of Asafoetida , curry leaves, mustard seeds and urad dal. Let them crackle and the lentils brown.
  • Now gently slide and arrange each stuffed eggplant in a single layer. Reduce the flame to medium high and sprinkle some water – about a couple of tablespoons worth at the most and cover. Let it cook / steam/braise for about 7-10 minutes or so. If they are really tender eggplants they would be cooked near through now.
  • Remove the lid and with aid of tongs, gently flip it so now it roasts on the other side. If the eggplants are completely cooked, you can leave it uncovered at this stage. If not cover it and let it cook again for another 5 minutes.
  • Finish the cooking process with uncovered cooking  for about 5 -7 minutes to aid in removing any sogginess left and to crisp up the eggplants a bit.
  • Note: add a dash of salt if you think you might need a bit more.

 

Serve hot with steaming hot rice with a dollop of ghee and fresh Sambar. Ambrosia !

2

 

Banana Walnut Cake – So awesome, Light , Fluffy and Nutty!

Planning your day around possible thunderstorms is a bit like planning a scientific experiment with a ton of variables thrown in. An experiment, that is fun but the outcome  is so unpredictable . To cut a long story short, it was the ” boy who cried wolf “.. while the huge thunderstorms didn’t show up, what did was  a reminder from mother nature that she  was the  one in charge . And we were blessed with blistering temperatures hitting near ninety ..Lovely !!

And of course when temperatures hit that high,  the stock of sorry looking bananas get even more sorrier. read natural organic progression .. more dark brown spots appear ( more like the pounds that magically appear on self ). 🙂 Well, I cannot just dump nearly half a dozen bananas out. They were just overripe and more sweet than the youthful ones. But no amount of cajoling could get my 3A’s to venture near them. And then inspiration stuck, or rather the thought in the back burner   just jumped several hoops ahead to make itself shout ” Make banana bread / cake “. Sure, sounds easy, but here is the cinch, I have never baked this one. Yes, I have baked so many more kinds, but banana bread/cake, the easy peesy one, I have never attempted to do so. Well partially because , I had a good friend who would treat me to her delectable version quite often and partly because it’s banana bread. And well honestly a fruit smoothie would be so much easier. Just throw in the bananas, add a couple more fruits, a dash of honey and there you have it. But no, the itch to bake set in and I do need to scratch it. Call me stubborn, but my friend , let’s just call her D ( you know who you are , sweety), had this heavenly version and  I just wanted to try it. After about  half an hour of searching,I did manage to locate the one. Here is the version, that she primarily used. (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/a-number-1-banana-cake/)

This is the one I based this experiment upon,  but of course my pantry ingredients decided the kind that went into the batter mix. Seriously, I was in  no mood to go shopping to the grocery store in the sweltering heat, just because I did not have buttermilk. The ones’ marked in Asterix, are variations of the original recipe.

Alright , folks, this is my version of the ingredients that went in:

  • 2.5 cups of self rising flour* ( notice it is self rising, why? cause I did not have the regular one ,and seriously a little bit of baking powder should technically make the cake more airy. In any case, my gripe about the run to the grocery store , well I stood my ground )
  • 1/2 cup of  unsalted butter .( You can substitute this with almond butter for a more nuttier taste I suppose )
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of milk* ( the original recipe called for butter milk. Well, I decided to use milk here 🙂 . Why.. well no buttermilk and seriously, thought milk would be an awesome choice. I used 1% milk of course.)
  • 1 and 3/4 cup of sugar* – I used brown granulated sugar entirely
  • About 5 medium ripe bananas  * mine were pretty spotty brown ( the original recipe calls for 4. But I suppose an additional banana would do no harm )
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • A generous pinch of saffron *( I know I am obsessed with saffron )
  • A generous pinch of caradamom powder *
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of skinned sliced almonds*
  • A pinch of cinnamon powder *

( Whew, don’t let the exhausting list fool you. I just emptied those nuts that were sitting in the pantry. And decided to add in a few flavors  to enhance the mix. More like, once I get started, I just cannot get to stop myself from adding a dash of this and dash of that ).

Alright, now that the stage is set, lets get the gooey good stuff going.

Prep work:

  • Preheat the oven / 350 deg
  • Grease and flour the pans of your choice. the original recipe called for two 8 inch pans. I used one 8  inch round and one 9 inch square pan.

Let’s get the party started …

  1. Sift the flour,baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter,sugar and eggs.
  3. Add in the pureed bananas,,cardamom powder ,cinnamon powder and saffron strands.
  4. Add in the flour and whip up the gooey mixture.
  5. Fold in the walnuts and almonds

Let’s cook them:

Stick those pans in the preheated oven and bake them at 350 deg for 30 min.

The results:

Holy mackerel ! Honest to goodness yummy light and fluffy and airy goodness in squares and circles. Beautiful brown goodness, perfectly baked and crunchy walnuts. The aroma filled the entire kitchen and brought the oldest scooting down to the kitchen.. all the way form the attic. 🙂

Texture : Very very soft ( possibly the baking powder in the self rising flour combined with the baking soda, did wonders) and porus.

Aroma : Fragrant cardamom and hint of cinnamon with saffron emanating creating the wonderful fusion with bananas.

Serve it up..the kids devoured it it warm with the cool combination of whipped cream. Yummy!

Verdict: Just awesome !.. And like I always believe, great cooking results is mostly achieved by right combination of ingredients and the freshness of  your stock. And of course, the right chemistry !!!