Badanekai Yennegai ~ North Karnataka Style Eggplant in Peanut Curry

Last month's theme for breadbakers (the bread baking group that I am part of) had given us the theme of ancient grains and I picked JoLada rotti or sorghum flatbread which is typically prepared by folks in Northern parts of Karnataka (read my previous post here). To go with these rottis I looked for the recipe of the badanekai yennegai, a very traditional recipe that uses a particular spice blend that gives it a very earthy taste. My mum's cleaning lady (who had first told me about it) had told me that the dish required the spice and I guess she bought her stock from Bijapur, the place where she came from.

Since the spice blend required one particular spice, I had put off making this dish for a long time. Then last month I came across a simple recipe here which I adapted to make a delicious dish that I really enjoyed having with the rottis! If you manage to get the spice blend from North Karnataka, then go ahead and use it but if not, the recipe below will give you good results. 

Badanekai Yennegai ~ North Karnataka Style Eggplant in Peanut Curry
Prep time: 15-20 mins | Cook time: 15 mins | Serves 3-4

For the masala:

For the tempering (seasoning)

1. Wash the eggplants well and make a '+' (cross mark) at the bottom (base) of each of them, carefully slitting them all the way upwards (vertically) just until you reach the stalks. Don't cut the stalks off or else you will end up cutting each eggplant into quarters. Dip the eggplants in a pan of water for about 8-10 mins - this is to get rid of the excess iron that eggplants have. After 10 mins, remove, pat dry and keep aside. Discard the water
2. In a heavy based tawa/skillet dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, cinnamon, cloves, sesame seeds and peanuts one by one and remove onto a plate to cool. Make sure that you don't burn any of these ingredients or they will taste bitter. Maintain the heat of the skillet on a medium. 
3. When the spices have cooled down they will turn crisp. Grind them to a powder and then add the coconut, chopped onion, tamarind, jaggery and salt. Add water sparingly to make a thick coarse paste. Remove the masala into a bowl and reserve the masala water from the grinder.
4. Marinate the eggplants with this paste stuffing them sufficiently with it. Retain the extra paste for the gravy. 
5. Heat oil in a heavy based pan/kadai and toss in the mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering, add curry leaves and the hing. Fry the onions till they turn translucent (pale)
6. Slide in the marinated eggplants in a single layer, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes and gently flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes.
7. Add the reserved masala and the masala water and cook for another 2-3 mins. Adjust salt to taste.
8. When the gravy has thickened slightly, remove pan from heat. Serve hot with JoLada Rotti (sorghum flatbread) or chapathis or rice. 

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