I spent a year in Malawi in 2004. It was a beautiful and grueling experience all at the same time. The most eye opening year of my life and a time when I truly learned to appreciate all those creature comforts I had become used to growing up in Cape Town. It was also the year I ate the best vegetarian food of my life.
Zulfikar, my husband worked with an older Gujrati man who had taken him like a son in the year before I had come to Malawi. Zulfi would regularly be invited to his home where a tiny flat accommodated 2 families, the wives of whom spent all their time in the kitchen turning out the most delicious vegetarian dishes. It was from eating with them that I would come to learn that vegetarian cooking is an art. Finding the right balance between spices and ingredients takes a skill, and their talents were so honed that I would not have missed a morsel of meat if I had to spend months at their dining table.
This brinjal dish is one such that combines peas and coconut to impart a very specific flavour. The baby brinjals have a delicate sweet flavour with a slight bitterness in the skins which also hold a lot of vitamins. You need nothing more than some paaper, roti and pickle to make a complete meal out of this.
The below recipe is from Ramola Parbhoo’s book of Indian Cooking.
Stuffed Baby Brinjals
500 g baby brinjals (aubergine / eggplant)
250 g fresh or frozen green peas
30 ml (2 tbsp) dhania (coriander) leaves, chopped
60 ml (4 tbsp) freshly grated coconut or
45 ml (3 tbsp) desiccated coconut
15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar
8 ml (11/2 tsp) dhania-jeero (coriander-cumin)
5 ml (1 tsp) fresh ginger, pounded
3 ml (1/2 tsp) green masala or 1 chopped green chilli
3 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
80 ml (1/3 cup) cooking oil
2 ml (1/4 tsp) ground hing (asafoetida) or 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
Wash the brinjals then pat dry with absorbent paper. Slit each brinjal lengthwise, twice, but only three-quarters of the way down. Season each with a pinch of salt.
Chop the peas coarsely in a food processor or mincer. Place them in a bowl with the dhania leaves, coconut, sugar, dhania jeero, ginger, masala and salt. Mix this stuffing well and push a good quantity into each brinjal, using all the mixture.
To make the vagaar, heat the oil in a saucepan, sprinkle in the hing, then brown for 10 seconds or use the garlic and fry quickly without browning. Gently arrange the brinjals and excess stuffing in the same saucepan and fry for about 3 minutes over a medium heat. Turn the brinjals over and cover the saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes before serving.
Time: 40 minutes