Image

Sometimes you need to look outside the proverbial circle to source food and recipe inspiration, or maybe it just occurs naturally if you trust your instincts in certain situations. Usually I find green-grocery shopping nothing short of a rejuvenating sensory experience with display after display of fresh, multi-coloured fruit and vegetables beautifully presented like paint on an artist’s palette. They haven’t just been dumped randomly, serious thought has gone into these displays for maximum visual appeal which turns into enticement and ultimately (in my case) more purchases than needed at the time – like the four inviting artichokes I bought yesterday just because they looked so content nestling happily next to the eggplants, not because I was going to be using them in my recipe but solely for decorational purposes in my kitchen.

Thyme from the Wall Garden
Thyme from the Wall Garden

Right now it appears the planet is collectively obsessed with, either just starting, completely finished or half-way through that ubiquitary TV series Breaking Bad which has presented me with an inspiration for a dish. How is this be possible you ask? If you are familiar with this completely compelling piece of Television excellence you’d be familiar with the character Marie who, as the series goes on you eventually notice is constantly surrounded by the colour purple. Not only is she wearing purple (contrasted with yellow or other complimenting purple colour-matches) the kitchen is also full of purple appliances, the crockery, shopping bags, curtains, the bedroom theme, furniture and even a purple cork-screw makes an appearance.  I also wonder if she she eats eggplant every night for dinner? It’s entirely possible she does.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe more I watch this series and am blasted with visions of purple the more thoughts I have about eggplant and other assorted purple coloured vegetables to the point of Marie Schrader’s obsessive behaviour. Red Onions (which are really purple and should be called purple onions), Raddichio, Beetroot, Purple Garlic, Purple Carrots, Purple Chillis and the King of them all, Eggplant. Traditionally serving sliced, drenched with olive oil, grilled and consumed just like that is sensational but there are other ways to incorporate eggplant in your cooking if you like to experiment. This recipe is based on an Iranian dish ‘Mirza Ghassemi’ plus a few additions and omissions. Baked with thyme the night before, then folded through scrambled eggs the following morning the sweet, smokey flavour intensifies over night. Baking has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare eggplant.  Chop the skin and flesh up, fold through the scrambled egg and serve on a bed of rocket topped with dollops of dill yoghurt. and a squeeze of lemon. For the Chilli freaks, throw some chopped fresh purple chillis over the final result.

Baked Eggplant Scramble

1 Large Eggplant; Cut in half lengthways criss-cross scored without piercing skin

2 tsp Sea Salt

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Few sprigs of fresh Thyme

* Sprinkle salt in the slits of the eggplant and set aside for 30 mins

* Squeeze all liquid from eggplant (like a sponge)

* Pre-heat oven to 200 C

* Brush flesh sides with Olive Oil

* Place flesh side down on top of Thyme sprigs in a roasting tin and bake for 1 hour or till skin starts crisping up.

Creamy Scrambled Eggs

4 – 6 Free Range Eggs

1/4 Cup of cream or Milk (or if dairy issues, just plain old water)

50 gms Butter

Salt and Pepper

Smokey Paprika for dusting

* Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork

* Add milk then use an electric beater to whip them up till well mixed, light and aerated

* Melt butter in pan till sizzling, pour in egg mixture and let settle for around a minute before moving it all with a spoon.

* Do not over stir, just gently fold cooked parts over each other till barely cooked; just slightly un-cooked as off the flame it is still setting. (Over-cooked scrambled eggs become watery rather than what you want light and fluffy)

* Chop the eggplant at this stage and gently mix through the scrambled eggs.

* Serve on a bed of Rocket drenched with lemon with the dill yoghurt sauce and a sprinkle of smokey paprika

Dill and Yoghurt Sauce

1/2 cup of Greek Yoghurt

2 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill

* Mix together till well combined

Note*

For the full ‘purple explosion’, grate some purple carrot over the rocket and add some caramelised red-onions before the eggs go on top, sprinkled with some edible purple flowers. (Sorry there is no picture, am only imagining this but am sure would look great)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy cute little Artichoke 🙂

Image

In the world today it’s doubtful any more than one song exists where the subject and title is Eggplant. A quick Google search reveals that yes there is indeed more than one song with Eggplant in the title like ‘The Eggplant That Ate Chicago’. The band Train also has a song called Eggplant and there are a band-names like ‘My Eggplant Died Yesterday’ and ‘Kenny Young and the Eggplants’.  The search also indicates resoundingly by far and above the most well-known Eggplant song of all is ‘Eggplant’ by Michael Franks from the album Art Of Tea.

I heard this song in remix form recently after not hearing it for years, then quite annoyingly remained in my head for a few days afterwards. Anyone familiar with the lyrics  would know the chorus suggesting his girlfriend cooks it up ‘about nine-teen different ways and he sometimes has it raw with Mayonnaise’? More Googling reveals indeed this is a way some people consume it, raw with mayonnaise on a sandwich. (Perhaps they got the idea from the song?) Eggplant, whether it be roasted, fried or Baba Ganoushed is a vegetable unsurpassed with its sweet, cooked flavours and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Raw is just not an option.

Imam Bayildi
Imam Bayildi

I recently performed in Yamba with the Bushwackers, where we were fortunate enough to experience the cooking of Sevtap Yüce. Turkish born, she now owns her own restaurant in Yamba where the menu is a creative mix and modern slant on traditional Turkish recipes. Being so impressed with the food I buy her cookbook full of treasures ‘Turkish Flavours’ and there she was in the open kitchen to sign it for me too with a smile to match as big as her flavoursome, generous cooking.

Blanched Tomatoes Chopped
Blanched Tomatoes Chopped

I consult Sevtaps’ cookbook for Eggplant dishes and discover Imam Bayildi – which translates to ‘The Priest Fainted’. Some say he fainted because the dish tasted so good and others because of the amount of expensive olive oil used. I’ve never fainted because a dish tasted so good, quite the opposite. And with no shortage of Olive Oil thanks to Adina Vineyard decide to attempt this dish.

There appears to be more than one way of approach with many variables of ingredients right down to the initial preparation of the Eggplant. Being a bit trepidatious as to peeling Eggplant correctly I consult YouTube to find out how to, someone must know. And there I find ‘The Imam’ with his recipe and how-to. It’s in Turkish with no sub-titles, but make a note of it all just the same, hoping that I haven’t added salt instead of sugar. There is a green vegetable added, and I can’t recognise it so go with Septavs addition of green capsicum at this point.

Here is the Imam at work himself and the secondary inspiration for this recipe combined with Sevtaps, and a few of my own additions.

Imam Bayildi – Stuffed Roasted Eggplants

1 Large Eggplant (or 3 smaller aubergines) trimmed, peeled, scored, halved and salted in a colander

1 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, sliced thinly

Sea Salt

1 Brown Onion, chopped

1 Green Capsicum, diced

2 Ripe Tomatoes, scored, blanched, peeled and chopped

1/2 Litre Water

Bunch of Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

1 Clove Garlic, minced

2 Large Green Chillis split lengthways, de-seeded and de-membraned

Method:

1) Pre-heat Oven to 170 Degrees C. Fry onions in half the oil over medium heat for a few minutes

2) Add Capsicum and Tomato. Sprinkle liberally with Salt, let sizzle a bit then add water

3) Let boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for twenty minutes

4) Push slivers of garlic inside scored eggplant

5) Fry eggplant in rest of oil till golden on all sides, remove and drain on paper towels till cool then place in a roasting tin

6) Add parsley, minced garlic and lemon juice to tomato mixture, turn off heat

7) Drain veg mix through a colander, reserving liquid.

8) Dig a well in each cooled eggplant, making sure the skin below is left intact and evenly scoop in veg mixture

9) Top with half a large green chilli (pictured) secured with a toothpick and a sprinkle of slithered almonds

10) Pour reserved liquid around (not over) eggplants, cover and bake 40 minutes.

Garlic Yoghurt

1 Clove Garlic

Sea Salt

1 Cup Greek Yoghurt

Method:

Ground Garlic and Sea Salt in a Mortar and Pestle to paste consistency

Fold into the Greek Yoghurt

I served this on top of prepared red quinoa, Garlic yoghurt (also by Sevtap) a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice. It tasted so good I nearly fainted 🙂