As I traverse the deep realms of my mind and try to dig out memories associated with the highlight of today's post, I find that visions of Ennagai, a spiced stuffed eggplant curry with sorghum millet breads are firmly etched in my mind.
Growing up in North Karnataka, this eggplant dish was a common feature not in our household in particular, but in the homes of friends and local eateries too.
Eggplants or aubergines as they are known in Europe, are quite popular in north Karnataka. They can be cooked with a simple seasoning to be eaten everyday or with spices and condiments on special occasions.
Ennagai is a delicacy that is eaten once a week or reserved for celebratory occasions. Since it is laced with spices and a lot of oil (eateries would use twice the amount of oil mentioned in the recipe), this best not eaten everyday.
But if you visit a local eatery known as "khanavali" a thali would be incomplete without this dish.
If you love eggplants, you will love this dish. It is delicately spiced and the falvours blend into the eggplant creating magic on the plate. And there are many variations to this recipe based on family preferences. I'm in possession of 3 ennagai recipes- my mother's late kitchen assistant Javali's Ennagai, my ex nanny Sachi's Ennagai and my grandmother's recipe. The one I'm sharing today is based on Sachi's recipe. This is a delight to eat with sorghum millet bhakris (flat breads) or even rotis made with whole wheat flour.
Ennagai is also very popular in potluck meals and can be quite the centerpiece on a vegetarian buffet. The fleshy texture of eggplant can make for a good meat substitute.
I admit, that this dish takes a little preparation and is not one of those meal ideas if you are looking for a quick fix. But if you have a little time on hand with patience to boot, and if you embark upon making this dish, then I assure you that you wont be disappointed.
Badnekai Ennagai | North Karnataka Style Stuffed Eggplants Recipe
500 gm (8 to 10) small or medium sized eggplants or brinjals
50 gm (Â½ cup) dry coconut
50 gm (Â¼ cup) peanuts
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 cardamom pods shelled
2 to 3 cloves
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 to 5 curry leaves
3 to 4 green chilies
1 Â½ tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp tamarind soaked in Â½ cup hot water
1 tbsp jaggery
water as required*
fresh coriander for garnishing
3 tbsp oil
Â½ tsp mustard seeds
a sprig of curry leaves
Â½ tsp yellow asafetida powder
Â½ tsp turmeric
Wash the eggplant and pat dry.
In a wok put in the dry coconut, peanuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves and dry roast for 7 to 8 minutes or until the coconut is golden brown.
In a blender put in the roasted ingredients, the chilies, the salt and blend to a thick paste using little water (start with Â¼ cup and use more only if required).
Slit the eggplants into 4 quarters keeping the base intact. You have to make sure that you are able to stuff the eggplants with the spice paste.
In a wok, heat the oil on medium flame and add the mustard seeds. After they pop, turn down the heat, add the curry leaves, asafetida powder and the turmeric powder.
*Adjust the consistency of the gravy with more or less water as required.
Put in the stuffed eggplants, the remaining spice mixture and cook on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
Turn down the heat, add the tamarind water, jaggery and a little more water if required, cover and cook until the eggplants are done.