Eggplants

Life’s good at the moment. The beach is beautiful and we have been swimming most days. My boys went back to preschool this week (happiness for all) and my 2 year old daughter is also back in her usual routine.

If it wasn’t for my veggie garden I might, say, complain about the muggy weather. But the mix of full sun, laced with heavy summer rain has sent my garden crazy. This morning I discovered my first ever eggplants – I planted an eggplant seedling 6 weeks ago and now have a bush full of violet flowers and some incredibly beautiful firm purple eggplants. All I did was make sure the soil was in good form before I planted (I had beans there previously – circulating plants apparently also helps with soil health as well as turning through some good compost), added a little liquid organic seaweed based formula and watered the garden generally twice a day (my spot is sunny most of the day which is a plus). You can also grow eggplant in a pot and it’s a good veg to try if you have a smallish space as you get good bang for your buck. My kids were ridiculously excited to see the eggplants growing this morning (also our success is likely to help them agree to at least try an eggplant that isn’t hidden in my 15 vegetable bolognaise).

Food grown meters from the kitchen tastes better. Growing even a few herbs on the balcony so you can whip together something a little special for dinner at short notice is what life’s about – we’ve gotta get back to basics.

Which all has me thinking, what can I cook this weekend with these fresh little eggplant gems?

One of the most delicious eggplant incarnations which just keeps giving (as it will last 3-5 days in the fridge) is of course Baba Ghanoush. It is smoky and light and tastes delicious as a condiment to meat, spread on a rare roast beef sandwich, as a dressing for a finely chopped tomato and cucumber salad or as a dip for freshly baked crackers or bread.

This recipe is based on my aunt Tammy’s Middle Eastern style recipe – simple but the best I’ve tried (it is without tahini, as for me, tahini affects the pure smoky eggplant flavor that is so beautiful about this Ghanoush):

Best Baba Ghanoush

Ingredients

3 medium size eggplants

Approx 2 tablespoons of homemade mayonnaise or to taste (or store bought egg mayonnaise like Hellmann’s is ok)

1 clove of garlic, blanched and crushed (to blanche the garlic, add a peeled clove of garlic to cold water in a small pan, heat until it reaches a boil. Then drain, pop in a small bowl of ice water and repeat this step a further 2 times – this softens the v strong garlic tang and makes the baba ghanoush store better in the fridge)

Sea salt flakes (e.g. Maldon)

Method

In an old pan, which you don’t mind dedicating to the purpose of charring eggplants, capsicums, chillis etc (because it tends to char a little itself eventually), grill the eggplants on a medium/high heat (you may have to keep adjusting) until their skins are charred all over and the eggplants are completely soft. Keep turning the eggplant every few minutes. I find you get a better result using a pan than chargrilling over open flame because the outside doesn’t burn too quickly and you ensure the eggplant gets cooked through before it shrivels up like a crisp – you can also use the oven but again I don’t think you get the right balance of charring and cooking). Don’t add any oil to the pan. Once cooked through, peal the charred skin from the eggplants, and put the flesh in a bowl with the garlic, a generous pinch of salt and the mayonnaise and process with a hand blender until combined but still holding a little texture. Test for seasoning and also add more mayonnaise if you would prefer it creamier, and it’s done. (The blending can also be done in a food processor but be careful not to overblend).

Sumac Lamb with Pomegranate and Baba Ghanoush

I recently served this dish family style for 20 people. It is really easy and yummy and we will be selling and delivering a version of it soon through the business (perhaps turned up a notch). My mother in law loves the dish so much she has been making it almost once a week. This version is particularly simple and quick.  I have suggested using a lamb rack here, but I have made it with butterflied lamb legs cooked on the bbq and I (being a huge lamb fan) love the flavor of medium rare lamb leg – the butterflied legs take, depending on thickness, about 10-12 mins per side on a low heat until medium rare. Try and buy the best quality grass fed lamb you can afford – eat a smaller but a better bit.

For 2 people, dust a 6-8 cutlet lamb rack (depending on size and how hungry or greedy you are feeling) with a mix of 1½ tablespoons of sumac, ½ tsp of cumin, ½ tsp mild chilli flakes (you may not need all the rub depending on how big your lamb is) – let the lamb rest in a baking tray on the bench for an hour so the meat gets to room temperature. Cook the lamb in a 200deg oven for approx. 20 mins until golden brown but still medium rare. Remove and rest for 10 mins. While the lamb is cooking, add 150ml pomegranate molasses, 3 tablespoons of honey and 50ml of water to a small pan and simmer for 12 mins approx. or until the mix is syrupy and reduced by half. Serve the lamb, drizzled with a tiny bit of pomegranate sauce (it is sweet so don’t overdo it in the first instance) and with the Baba Ghanoush and a simple rice pilaf or some steamed rice on the side. I always put a jug of extra pomegranate sauce on the table because it is quite addictive. Any leftover pomegranate sauce stores well in the fridge.

Enjoy (and let me know what you think),

Kamilla x

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Categories: Recipes

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7 Comments on “Eggplants”

  1. John R
    02/02/2012 at 8:21 am #

    Kamilla

    A great eggplant recipe we have had success with for our kids – and for ourselves – is eggplant parmagiana. The eggplant gives the tomato sauce a delicious richness, and the large bites of mozzarella go down a treat. Super simple, and you can make a big batch and serve it as a meal in itself or as a side dish to, say, grilled lamb or chicken.

  2. Vicki Hon Briggs
    02/02/2012 at 8:40 am #

    Well done Kam, it’s all looking and sounding fantastic! I can’t wait to start ordering in April!! Love the blog-im looking forward to more great tips, recipes and staying up to date. Vics x

  3. 02/02/2012 at 10:12 am #

    Thanks guys. Follow the blog and i’ll add more ideas too. Love the eggplant parmagiana idea – my type of real comfort food

  4. Chantelle
    02/02/2012 at 2:26 pm #

    It’s got me craving eggplant! Beautiful blog Kam- well done! Can’t wait to keep on reading!

  5. Samantha Duffy
    02/02/2012 at 5:41 pm #

    I miss all ur tips on cooking and watching you cook some amazing food! I am gonna be addicted to this blog :-))
    This dish sounds delicious Kamilla, gonna try it over the weekend! Thanks xx

  6. Polly Dale
    02/02/2012 at 8:16 pm #

    We spent the hols with mum and dad in the Hunter and they have a super vege patch too. Just before we left, the eggplants all came out at once. Moussaka was the answer. SO Delicious and my kids at the eggplant without thinking twice.

    • 02/02/2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Agree – You have just reminded me of a delicious Maggie Beer moussaka recipe which is finished with preserved lemon. Is go to comfort food. x

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