Sunday, March 15, 2009

badnekaayi-yeNNegaayi palya

I have come across all kinds of eaters. The annoying "Picky eaters" who will just NOT eat certain kinds of foods or who will ONLY eat certain ones. They have a say in everything, this is too oily, too spicy, too bland, contains this, does not contain this, too hard, too soft, too sticky and may be even too tasty! Then, there are the equally annoying "will eat anything" kind. Food is a mere means of sustenance for these people. You'd be waiting all your life to get a comment out of their mouths, in vain. Then there are those who Love n Live to eat and those who eat to live. Those who like to experiment, try out new stuff, to cook and eat new things, new flavors and those who are happy to stick to a safe, well-known, traditional menu.

I used to be a picky eater..."radishes are too smelly", "idlis are too bland", "uppittu is yucky" etc., etc., Breakfast times always saw a sulky me, resulting in a tiff with amma. She would give up on me with the words, "you will realise one day, when you have to cook for yourself, when you have a family to feed". That day is here. I am exactly at the spot she referred to. I feel sorry for what I did and realize her worth, love and respect her all the more.

Well, coming to today's dish. It is badnekaayi/brinjal/baingan. This is one of the vegetables that probably has people on the extremes. There are people who either LOVE it or outright HATE it. I am not a big fan of brinjal but then neither do I hate it. Its just any other vegetable, something for another day of the week. But then I simply love the way it transforms itself into such lovely dishes badnekaayi chutney, gojju, huLi/sambar, aloo-baingan subzi and this exotic "yeNNegaayi palya". Typically a recipe of the Northern part of Karnataka, it has found its way into the plate and hearts of all Kannadigas. So, here's my version of the same.

One more thing I'd like to add here is the use of "huchcheLLu puDi" or nyjer seeds powder. Using this in the recipe adds a very authentic flavor and texture to the dish. But then, I guess it also takes some getting used to. It is not very visually pleasing. My aunt says it looks like "shaved off stubble", and very truly so. It is readily available everywhere in Karnataka,India. Here in the US, I've not found it with any of the grocers. But I know that Nyjer seeds are used as bird feed to attract finches. But I'm not really sure if they are fit for human consumption. More information here. My stock of the powder from India has long depleted. So, I did not used it when I made this.

Ingredients :

6-8 small, purple, Indian eggplant/brinjal
8-10 curry leaves
1 1/2 cup grated Coconut (fresh/frozen)
4-5 Green Chillies
1 medium sized Onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of Garlic
2 teaspoons yeLLu(til, sesame seeds)
2 teaspoons Groundnuts
2 heaped teaspoons huLi puDi(Sambar powder.If you don't have homemade powder, use MTR Sambar Powder)
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 heaped teaspoon kurshaNi puDi/huchcheLLu puDi(Nyjer seeds powder) - Optional
1 tablespoon Tamarind extract
2 teaspoons crushed Jaggery - Optional
Salt, to taste
Coriander leaves, for garnish

Method :

1. Wash the brinjal and set aside. Heat a small pan. Dry roast the groundnuts and then the sesame seeds. Put them into a blender. Add green chillies, garlic and a heaped teaspoon of chopped onions into the same pan. Dry roast these until black spots appear on the chillies and the garlic. Put them into the blender.

2. Add coconut, sambhar powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt, tamarind extract, jaggery and nyjer seeds powder(if using) into the blender along with the above stuff and grind into a smooth paste using water.
3. Slit the brinjal into quaters such that they are still attached to the stalk at the bottom. Fill the slit brinjal with the above paste, and set aside.

4. In a flat wide pan heat about 1/4 cup of oil. When hot enough, add curry leaves and the remaining chopped onions and saute until translucent. Now, gently place the stuffed brinjal in the pan, such that they don't touch each other. Pour any remaining masala paste into the pan. Do a taste test of the gravy/paste and adjust as needed. Cover the pan and let the brinjal cook over medium heat.
5. Once or twice in between, turn the brinjal so that it gets cooked on all sides. If the gravy is too thick add some water to get the right consistency.
6. Turn off the heat once the brinjal is thoroughly cooked. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
7. Enjoy with akki roTTi or joLada(jowar) roTTi along with badnekaayi chutney

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