This bharela baingan or stuffed eggplant is our Gujarati Auntie's recipe.
The Aunty who is the current babysitter but babies not being babies anymore who also helps me a little with housework. She makes some of her vegetarian Gujarati dishes and we are sold. Kadhi has always featured in my comfort food list, right there with alu posto-musurir dal and Thai red curry and now there is Lobia jostling for space with Cholar Dal and begun shorshe with a Gujju style stuffed eggplant.
So Aunty is going on leave and all the husband-man has to say is
"Did you learn to make the stuffed eggplant from her?"
"What about the bhindi kadhi ?"
While all I can think of is "folding the laundry", a chore which is not my idea of entertainment and which I had successfully palmed off to her while she watched "Ghar ghar ki Kahani" or something similar called "Punarvivaha".
It will be a while that Auntie will be gone and I might not really need to hire her or any babysitter by the time she comes back. I would have loved to hire a "laundry folder" though.
Several years back when I arrived in this country(the US of A) we lived in an apartment which did not have an in-apartment laundry. Those days most apartments had a laundry in the basement to be shared by say several residents. In our case it was 4(or maybe 8) -- each block had 4 apartments and there was one laundry in the basement for the 4 of us.The laundry had two pairs of washer and dryer, each coin operated.
I had come from a land of ample sunshine, clothes lines, house helps and colorful washing machines that were just catching up. My parents did not have a washing machine then. We, the newly married, had bought one for our Bangalore home and only because it was part of a deal which included a TV and refrigerator. That all of those three worked given the deal price now seems amazing to me.
We kept the washing machine and the dryer unit in the verandah. On the washing days, the house help would drag it to the bathroom, fit the pipe to the faucet and wash the clothes there. The clothes were then set out to dry on clotheslines which spanned the length of the verandah. The dryer did a shoddy job and was never used. I think we used it as a soiled clothes hamper. The next day, it was the "same Amma" who folded the dried clothes now crisp and crackling like microwaved Papad and kept aside the set to send to the istiri wallah for ironing.
Compared to that, doing laundry in a dungeon type basement, in humongous washing machines which worked only when 4 quarters were placed correctly in their slot was very exciting. I don't know about you but even until a few years back, the act of pushing a coin through a slot was mighty exciting to me. The only part I was finicky about was using the same machine to wash my floral shirt which neighbor in Apt# 11 2D had used for his Tommy underpants.The first few washes, I spent 4 extra quarters and 30 minutes to run a light rinse in an empty washing machine. Only after the machine was cleansed did I do my laundry. That habit did not last long though. Arranging for several quarters on weekends became increasingly difficult.
Back then even the part about folding the laundry did not seem too bad. I was in love with Bounce Fabric softeners and smelling "mountain breeze", whatever it was, in the folds of warm cottons from the dryer gave me a lot of pleasure.
Gradually however I started losing interest in washing machines and their slotti-ness. I also became lax with folding clothes. The husband-man who shared the job also seemed to lose interest in folding. When we moved to our own home with our very own laundry room, after BS was born, I found renewed interest in the washing part and ran multiple loads -- children, white, non-white, children white, children colored. It was a joy to walk few steps on the same floor and run a wash.
The folding however loomed large as the monster to be avoided. The futility of the act -- of folding something which has to be unfolded to be used -- stared me in the face. I started using the spare bedroom as a dumping ground for dried clothes.I found that putting clothes out of the dryer and immediately onto hangers saves ironing as well as folding. I found that watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" while folding tiny onesies reduced the pain a little.
I found all loopholes to avoid folding or to make it bearable.
So after LS was born and I was hiring babysitters, I sneakily put in the "laundry folding" as a requirement. However M Didi who was with us until last year was as averse to folding as me and often had her excuses to not do so. I would grudgingly trudge along, folding a t-shirt and trying to find a sock pair, roping in BS for whom it was more exciting.
It all changed and I was finally totally free of "folding" when K Auntie started her job. She gladly folded the clothes while I cooked dinner. I couldn't have asked for anything better.
My days of happiness are now numbered though and I have to go back to my dull job soon. I might just dump the dried clothes in the spare bedroom again. If you are visiting me, please call a week ahead.Yes, I need all that time to fold.
But at least I have learned to make the Gujarati style Bharela Baingan -- eggplant stuffed with spicy peanut and besan. I love regional Indian cuisine and I am so glad that I learned this gem. It is really good. Also way simpler than it sounds. If you know me, you would know, I don't cook complex meals and I don't like folding clothes. So if I am doing a stuffed eggplant, it must be easy.
I totally freaked the poor lady out by taking pictures of eggplants in every step of their life but this recipe is worth all that and more.
Before going onto the recipe, let me just tell you that the book, "Bong Mom's Cookbook" is getting great reviews and if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you already know that. The book is now available on Amazon at a great price and also on Flipkart. More on the book page
Bharela Baingan -- peanut masala stuffed Eggplant
At the very beginning go to the nearest grocery store and get the small round eggplants. Buy 10 small round eggplants
Wash them well and dry them
Next trim the stem of the eggplants and slit them crosswise at the bottom. The slits should not separate the eggplant and it should be joined at the base
Next, take 1/2 cup of peanuts, the ones without skin, dry roast them for about 4 mins at medium heat. Cool and then powder coarsely in your spice grinder.
Make a paste of
4 hot green chillies
3 fat clove of garlic
Now in a wide mouthed bowl put
3/4 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour/Gram Flour
the peanut powder
2 tbsp Coriander powder/Dhaniya powder
3/4 tbsp Kashmiri Mirch
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
the ginger-garlic-chilli paste you made
2 tbsp oil
Mix well with your fingers till you get a moist crumbly stuffing mix. Taste to see if anything is missing and adjust accordingly.
Again using your fingers stuff each eggplant with this spiced-gram flour stuffing mix. Press them down so that they reach all the way to the bottom. There should be some stuffing left
Arrange all the stuffed eggplants on a microwave safe plate. Sprinkle with the stuffing that is left. Drizzle 1 tbsp of oil. Cover with a perforated MW cover or a cling wrap with perforation. Put in the microwave and cook for about 8 mins. At the end of this the eggplants will look soft and kind of settled down. They are almost cooked by now.
Next heat some more oil in a frying pan, say about 1tbsp. Temper the oil with 1/4th tsp of cumin seeds. When the spices pop, gently put in all the part-cooked eggplants and their stuffing. Toss gently and then cover. Cook till done
Serve with chapati for best effect.