Brinjals and brats, Rajas and donkeys

Gutti vankaya koora – variously known as ennai kathrikayi (Tamil), something badnekaya in Kannada – ok, I’m having a senior moment here and can’t remember- is inseparable from the heart of a true blue Telugu. If you call yourself a Telugu (note how carefully i am avoiding the Andhra-Telangana question!) and do not like this curry, I suggest you get your gene pool carefully analysed!
I hated this vegetable as a child – in common with a million other kids, most likely! Refused to eat it when my mom tried to disguise it in various ways – all right, mom was NOT a good makeup artist! As kids, we were allowed to have such privileges – as saying no to any food – only for so long. Soon enough, it dawned on my dad that right under his very nose, one of his kids was growing up to be – in very colloquial Telugu – “raanu raanu Raju gaari gurraalu gaadidelu avutunnayi” literally ” as the days go by, the Raja’s horses are turning out out be donkeys”!! Therefore, in the interests of only daughter not turning out to be a donkey, said daughter had to be taught a lesson.
Matters were taken in hand and over dinner one day. Vankaya (eggplant, the hated vegetable) was the curry. I refuse. Dad asks why. Because I don’t like it (see how fast the transformation to donkey was happening!)
Dad : Are you hungry?
Me : Yes (duh…!)
Dad: You want food?
Me: Yes (by now far gone in donkeyness)
Dad: This is food. Eat it!
Me: No.
So who do you think won? The king in question or the donkey? Big DUH! I got sent to bed with no dinner and learnt to shut up and not just eat eggplant but to relish  it – it appears on my table at least twice a week and i can eat any which way! So here’s one of my two favourite ways:
Gutti vankaaya or noone vankaaya koora
1/2 kg firm, purple brinjals (or eggplants)
1 large onion – grated (optional)
1 green chili – chopped
Koora podi (curry powder – recipe below) – 4 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Tamarind paste (1/4 tsp) mixed with a tbsp of water
Wash eggplant and remove the stalks. Slit brinjal from top and bottom – making transverse slits upto half it’s length, i.e. each slit is perpendicular to the other. Mix the curry powder, turmeric, green chili and salt together and stuff this mixture into the slits. Can also mix the onion into the mixture or fry it separately.
Place these in a microwavable bowl, cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
In a separate pan, heat the oil and season with mustard and curry leaves. Also add onions if you haven’t used them in the stuffing already. Drop the eggplants into the oil and sprinkle tamarind water on top. Cover and cook, turning over  (them, not self!) occasionally – about ten minutes – till tender.
Serve with hot, white rice, a big dollop of ghee (yeah, yeah, okay, you’re watching the calories), but the curry itself has only ONE tbsp of oil, remember?! And plain boiled tuvar dal with salt (aka mudda pappu)!
Koora podi  (curry powder)
Tuvar dal – 1 cup
Chana dal – 1 cup
Udad dal – 1 cup
Red chillis – 1 cup
Asafoetida – 2 pinkie nail size lumps
Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Roast separately and powder together – this is a very useful powder which I use for a lot of dry vegetable curries – potato, carrot, chowchow etc.