“Samaithu Paar” literally means cook and see in Tamil. S.Meenakshi Ammal is the author of ” Cook and see” books. There are 3 volumes in this cook book series. Meenakshi Ammal is the Julia Child of south Indian cooking. She published the first book of “Samaithu Paar” series way back in 1951 and since then its been a must have book in every South Indian home especially in Tamilnadu.
Many Indians firmly believe that “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” meaning cooking for a man is a good way to win his affections. In a land of arranged marriages like India, I guess this certainly has some value:) Therefore most brides and brides to-be are given a copy of this book. I remember even my mother had a copy of this book. This is by no means a fancy cookbook with colorful drool worthy pictures. This book is more like taking random notes from your mom or grand mom in the kitchen. There aren’t clear measurements given for most recipes, eyeballing rules high in this book. Every time I ask my mother for a recipe she would say “kan alavu”, “kai alavu” meaning measure roughly by sight and handful of this and that and now this doesn’t surprise me since her go-to cookbook was “Samaithu Paar”.
“Brinjal curry with powder” which is essentially an eggplant stir fry with some fresh Indian spices is from “Cook and See”-Part I. It is a simple stir fry which comes together in about 20 minutes. Its full of flavor and goes well with rice and roti. I used small eggplants available in Indian grocery stores but you can use Chinese eggplant or any other variety. I made slight changes to the original recipe to cut down on oil and spice levels.
5-6 small eggplants or 0.75ounces of eggplant cut lengthwise
1 medium size onion cut lengthwise
2 teaspoons channa dal/Bengal gram dal
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
6 dry red chilies ( I used 4 )
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
8 teaspoons oil ( I used 4 teaspoons of oil)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split urad dal/black gram dal
1 teaspoon asafetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
4-5 curry leaves
1. Mix tamarind paste in one cup of water and bring it to a boil.
2. Add the eggplant to the tamarind water along with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder and cover the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain the water. Make sure the eggplant doesn’t turn too soft.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a separate pan and when its hot add channa/ Bengal gram dal, coriander seeds and dry red chilies and fry till the they turn reddish brown. Grind them to a fine powder when completely cooled.
4. Heat 3 teaspoons of oil in the same pan and when its hot add mustard seeds and split urad/black gram dal and fry for 30 seconds.
5. Add curry leaves,asafetida and cook for a minute.
6. Add chopped onions and cook till they turn golden brown.
7. Add the cooked eggplant and salt and mix well.
8. Add ground spice powder and mix well to coat.
9. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
10. Turn off heat and serve with rice/roti.