It was a hot Sunny day. The school bell rang for the break. The first graders lined up behind the line leader. They went outside under the shades of the trees to have their brunch/snack. She opened her lunch box, saw the jelly sandwich, had couple of bites and put it back into the lunch box, drank her water from the pink pony water bottle that she fancied. She was interested in chit chatting with her friends than eating her sandwich and sipping the water as a relieving thirst quencher on the scorching hot day. One hour of recess didn't seem to be good enough for her, the giggling, whispering, kids running around were abruptly ceased when the bell rang again to get back to the class. She made sure her navy blue pinafore was clean, grabbed the lunch bag and her fancy pony water bottle and went back to the class. After another hour or so she heard the bell for dismissal. She ran to her pre schooler brother's class room and he was all ready to join his sister way back home. She grabbed his hand and told him not to run way back to home which was just the next block. Her little brother was kind of running to get back to home with his water bottle string running across his chest and back pack on his back. She tried her best to keep up with the pace by juggling her chart paper of drawings she made in the art class, pony water bottle and the back pack, but he made it to the home before her and pretended as the winner. She was eager to complain to her Mom about him for not paying attention while crossing the road. They saw their Mom waiting at the door with a smile. As soon as she entered the home, she got the aroma of the home made Rotis and her favorite stuffed vegetable dish. She forgot about what she wanted to tell her Mom. Mom got the bags and water bottles and asked them to change and wash hands to sit down for lunch. As a picky eater, she never preferred non-vegetarian, so when the Mom served her favorite ghee slathered Rotis with the spicy gravy stuffed vegetable dish, she enjoyed each and every bit of it since she was hungry and was waiting for the warm homemade food that her Mom made with Love. .....Aww that was one typical day of my childhood elementary school days.
Since my childhood days in North India I never had the stuffed vegetable dish once we moved to Kerala. My Mom's cooking style changed drastically. She prepared more south Indian food. Whenever I visit her now, I remind her of the stuffed Okra, stuffed bitter guard and stuffed eggplant she used to make. But for some reason she never made it for me again. It was last year, I got to taste the stuffed eggplant after so many years at one of the friends gathering, I was totally thrilled to experience my childhood taste and I even bragged my hubby about it and wanted to recreate it. So I kept hunting for the recipe desperately and finally with couple of tries I made them to the fit our palate. Couple of months ago my Mom and Dad visited us and I made this dish and surprised them. This recipe may not be the authentic version, but this is how I make it and my hubby loves it to the core.
Please read the recipe to the end and the notes before you start. Please follow the steps as mentioned in the recipe to get a consistently cooked eggplant that tastes delicious and have the look.
10 - small Indian eggplants(refer notes)
2 tbsp. - oil
1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. - fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
1/3 cup - caramelized onion paste
1 1/2 tsp. - ginger garlic paste
1 tsp. - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp. - coriander powder
1/2 tsp. - garam masala
1 tbsp. - dry mango powder/Aamchur (refer notes)
1 1/2 tbsp. - oil
salt to taste
chopped Cilantro to garnish
- Wash and pat dry the eggplant and leave it open in the air to remove any moisture.
- Meanwhile you can prepare the stuffing. Add 1 1/2 tsp. oil in a cast iron pan/non stick pan. Splutter the fennel seeds and cumin seeds on low heat. Now add the ginger garlic paste and cook till raw smell is gone. Add the caramelized onion paste and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients from the stuffing list and cook till the raw smell is gone. Adjust the salt. Turn off the flame and let it cool.
- While the stuffing is cooling, make slits in the eggplant by cutting the eggplant from the bottom into 4 quarters without cutting the stem and top part. You should be able to gently separate the 4 pieces with the stem intact.
- Using a butter knife apply the stuffing in the inside of the cut eggplant. Make sure that it should not be over stuffed, just enough to coat the insides. There should be some left over of the masala/stuffing. Reserve it in the pan.
- Take another cast iron pan (refer notes) and heat 2 tbsp. of oil. Place the eggplant in the pan without over crowding. They should be touching the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook on very low heat for 10 minutes. Now open the lid and turn the eggplant on other side, and cook it covered for 10 minutes. You have to repeat this turning sides and cooking on low heat for 10 minutes on each side. So it takes approximately 40 minutes to get the eggplant cooked completely. After 30 minutes of cooking, add the reserved stuffing into the pan and cook along with the eggplants. The dish is ready when the eggplant is very soft and delicate, but still retains the shape. Turn off the burner.
- Garnish the stuffed eggplants with chopped Cilantro and serve with steamed rice or Indian flat breads.
- Pick the fresh and the smallest eggplant from the stores. You can find them in Asian stores or Indian stores.
- Dry Mango powder also know an AamChur is available at Indian stores. This ingredient is not recommended to skip. It gives the tangy flavor and dark color to the dish.
- A wide Cast iron pan is highly recommended to cook the eggplant which helps in even cooking. My trials with non stick pan resulted in half cooked eggplants and burned stuffing.