i have to come right out and admit it: i don’t like brinjals. my family and close friends might even ask me to amend it to strongly dislike. just why don’t i like this cheerful purple vege? can’t say except that i have never liked it, right from young. there have been many times when well-meaning relatives would try to turn round my preference with their dishes, but would end up with no success. i would shove down spoounfuls of the vegetable to get it out of the way with a grimace strong enough to put off anyone from serving me brinjal ever again. anyone, except my mum. you see, the rest of my family members love brinjals in all forms – especially the mini stuffed kind (aka “ennai kathirikkai” in tamil). so that gives my mum enough reason to ignore my veto calls and make it anyway. and in all honesty, stuffed with a spice powder and roasted whole, i have to (grudgingly) admit that its not all that bad.
when i asked my mum for the procedure of how to make it, she said she follows the recipe (very slightly modified) by Chitra V (aka chitvish of indusladies.com) which provides an easier microwave version - and then added that my dad knew a story about brinjals. now that piqued my interest. what tale did the brinjal star in? well, it was a royal one, no less! and for your reading pleasure, here it is :
a king once hired a new chef for his palace kitchen and asked him to serve him something novel for his debut meal. the chef prepared a dish with brinjals - a vegetable that the king had never tasted until then. the king was very impressed with the dish and declared that the brinjal was a wonderful vegetable, unmatched by any other. hearing that, his minister added, “indeed, the brinjal is probably beloved by the gods too, which is why they bestowed it with a crown on top its head!” the happy king asked the chef to make brinjals everyday for every meal. however, within a week, he grew tired of the taste. one day, he flung aside his plate and declared in disgust that the brinjal was a horrible vegetable that didn’t deserve a place in the royal menu. hearing that, the minister added, “indeed, the brinjal is a foul-tasting vegetable. maybe that is why the gods hammered a long nail on top of its head!” the king was flabbergasted and asked him, “oh minister, one day you praise the brinjal and today you denounce it – why do you keep changing your mind?” to which the witty minister replied, “oh king! my loyalty lies with you, not with the brinjals – so why would it bother the vegetable what i say?”
To dry-roast and powder for stuffing:
2 tbsp Corriander seeds (Dhania)
2 tbsp Peanuts
1 tbsp White sesame seeds (Til)
2 tbsp Dry Coconut shavings (Copra)
Making the Stuffed Brinjals:
Wash and dry the brinjals on a clean tea towel. Keep the stems while cooking to keep the vege together – you can easily pick it apart later when eating. Make four slits on the bottom lengthwise upto three-quarters of its height. Mix the stuffing powder with the tamarind paste and all other spices and salt. Stuff the cut brinjals with the powder and arrange the pieces on a steamer or microwave plate. If you have excess stuffing powder, sprinkle it on top. Steam in a steamer/cooker for about 5 minutes or pop in the microwave after covering ir with a lid that has some holes. Remove and cool. Arrange the brinjals on another microwave plate, drizzle the oil on top and microwave it on Medium heat for about 3 minutes. Take out the plate, turn the brinjals slightly (be careful when turning the pieces over as you don’t want them to break) and put back in the microwave on same power for another 3 - 4 minutes until the skin becomes slightly crisp. (*Note: Microwave temperatures vary, so adapt the timings to suit yours. And if you do not have a microwave, you can just roast them on a stovetop on a flat pan.) Serve hot with rice or rotis.