Monday, March 9, 2009

Podi Idicha Kathirikai – Stuffed baby eggplant curry

Eggplants stuffed with spice – sounds like a traditional Andhra recipe, ain’t it? There are plenty of stuffed eggplant recipes starting from Andhra cuisine to Marathi. This Podi Idicha Kathirikai, however, is a lighter, easier and Tamil Iyer version of stuffed and shallow fried eggplants. It literally translates to ‘Eggplants stuffed with powdered spices’.

On our usual weekend vegetable shopping spree, S and I came across pretty purple tiny eggplants. Of course, from whatever was left of the whole lot, we picked 13 tiny brinjals that looked okay despite being leftovers. I’m assuming the stock was so fresh that everyone just filled up their baskets by the time we reached the store. We were happy with those tiny ok-looking baby eggplants nonetheless, and we knew they were going to make us gastronomically happier.

Mum had cooked this at home some months back and she made a casual mention to me about it back then – yes, she forgot to blog about it. Something made me want to try this dish out since she told me about it and the sight of comparatively tiny brinjals made me succumb to temptation.

This is simpler than the heavily spiced and flavoured gravy based dishes that most other cuisines offer, the list of ingredients should be proof enough.

Here’s what you’ll needed –
1. Baby eggplants – 10-15, stems chopped off and slit across

2. Dhaniya - 1 tablespoon

3. Channa dal - 1 tablespoon

4. Dry red chilis - 7-8

5. Desiccated coconut / Grated coconut – 2 tablespoons

6. Oil to shallow fry, turmeric powder, salt

7. Channa dal, split urad dal, mustard seeds to temper

Here’s how you dish it up –
1. Wash the eggplants and remove just the stem. Cut them across with slits making sure to hold the base intact.

2. Sprinkle some salt within and let it rest aside. Make sure you don’t overly salt the brinjals. This is usually a prep-step in recipes that involve frying or significantly larger than the usual amount of oil. Eggplants have a tendency to absorb oil and this step helps prevent oily, soggy dishes. However, many believe that this can be ignored while cooking tender baby eggplants. You can decide to ignore this step if you choose to, unless you’re cooking bigger, tougher and mature eggplants.

3. Meanwhile, in a few drops of oil, roast the red chili, chana dal, dhaniya and coconut.

4. When the mixture is cool enough, grind it along with salt and a pinch of turmeric powder.

5. Stuff the slit eggplants with this powder and sprinkle any remaining powder over them.

6. In the same Kadai, heat enough oil to shallow fry the eggplants. Allow some mustard seeds to crackle and then toss in a pinch of channa dal and split urad dal. When the dals turn aromatic and lightly tanned, toss in the brinjals. After about 5 minutes including tossing the brinjals in the wok, reduce the heat to low (sim) and continue slow cooking.

7. If you find the need to drizzle oil, you could use the PAM cooking spray, or any similar oil spray that adds just very little oil.

8. Toss and turn the brinjals every now and then, making sure they are all evenly cooked.

9. When they turn soft and mushy under the pressure of a fork, remove from the stove.

10. Serve hot as an accompaniment with rice. We gorged it down with rice and Pearl Onion Sambar (Chinna Vengayam Arachu Vitta Sambar).

Every time I cook any kind of eggplant into any form, I prefer handing the lion’s share to S. Yes, I love eggplants, I always have, but this poor guy has taken a recent liking to the vegetable and has missed out on delectable eggplant dishes all these years. I’m glad S loved the Podi Idicha Kathirikai curry. If you love brinjals as much as we do, then this recipe serves just two.

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