Written by Meena Agarwal on June 4th, 2008 | 16 Comments
Talk about being fashionably late, that too, to your very own event! Would it make it easier for you all to forgive me if I said I was busy celebrating my B’day (which just happened to be yesterday, yet the celebrations began 2 weeks in advance thanks to the ever wonderful Hubby Dear!)? I know, excuses, excuses! But still, I’m here now - with a killer recipe in tow!
I first spotted this book at the airport en route to Delhi many moons ago. The title caught my eye and I made a mental note to pick it up on my way back. Pick it up I did, but somehow never got around to reading it. That is of course until I announced it as the month’s pick for the Cook’s Book Club event. Although I thought it was well written, I was sorry to note that I didn’t quite enjoy it much. The story line started out with a bang, but kind of got a bit predictable for me. Nonetheless, I fell absolutely in love with the colourful characters! Set in an American Indian household, the book touches upon the troubled relationships within a family. And in the midst of it all, there is of course, food. After devastating events take place in her life, Devi, the story’s main character, goes into a trance and begins cooking. She cooks when she’s angry, she cooks when she’s sad, and she cooks when she’s happy. In short, her cooking was her way of communicating how she felt.
While I wouldn’t say I’m as dramatic as Devi when it comes to expressing my feelings, I can’t deny the fact that my cooking has many a time reflected my moods. Like the time I baked four large pizzas because I was feeling artistic and wanted to create a masterpiece, literally! Or when I bake a lusciously rich chocolate cake to give myself a pat on the back. Or even the time when I cooked an extravagant 5-course meal to thank Hubby Dear for a wonderful Valentine gift.
When I look back, I always seem to remember food as something that brought our family together. Whenever we were happy or had any big news to share, food would most definitely become the center of our attention. I remember most of our birthday celebrations not by the gifts we received, but by the feast my Mom made for us. Trips home from college during the summer were often preceded by many telephone calls of planning out the menu for the day I arrived. Most of our weekends were spent entertaining friends and family. I fondly remember my Mom working her way through a lavish meal irrespective of how many guests we were expecting. She would always say that it’s better to have food left over than let your guests leave feeling unfull. It should be noted that unless you eat till you almost drop, my Mom thinks you haven’t yet had enough. And so, it is from her that I have inherited this need to cook for my loved ones, and feed them till I know they can’t be fed anymore.
Take for instance this lovely dish of eggplant. I remembered eating something like it a few years ago at a friend’s home. A bunch of us were getting together for a game night and she made an elaborate meal to kick off the evening. Then, a couple of days ago, we invited a few close friends over for an evening of cards. As I was halfway into the book and still immersed in Devi’s character, I wanted to make a meal reminiscent of game night. That’s how this recipe came into being.
BAINGAN PATIALA (STIR-FRIED EGGPLANT WITH SPICES)
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4
8-10 small round eggplants, quartered
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp nigella seeds
1/4 tsp dried mango powder (amchoor)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt, to taste
2 tbsp light cooking oil
Fry eggplant pieces in a large non-stick wok till lightly browned. Set aside.
In the same wok, saute onions with nigella and cumin seeds till soft and fragrant. Add in spices, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste and fry for a few minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and cook on meduim heat till the mixture is almost dry and starts to give out oil from the sides. Mix in fried eggplants, season with salt, and let cook a few minutes till eggplants are done through.
Serve warm with rice or rotis.