Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eggplant Stewed in Honey and Spices

Eggplant Stewed in Honey and Spices

I love eggplant in all its forms, but this is one of the best ways I've ever eaten it - meltingly soft, sweet, sour and spicy-hot. You can easily make this dish with baby eggplant, widely available in Asian or Middle Eastern shops, and if you like you can leave the stems attached - handy if you want to serve them as finger food. Also, if you have a grill you can easily cook them that way instead of in skillet - I imagine a smoky-charred flavor would add to the mix nicely.

Source: adapted from Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan
Yield: serves 4 normal people as part of an appetizer spread, or two eggplant lovers

2 large globe eggplants/aubergines, stemmed and thickly sliced, or 1 1/2 lbs (750g) baby eggplants, halved
1/3 cup (80ml) (approx) olive oil
5 tablespoons (75ml) clear honey
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon harissa or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
handful chopped fresh coriander/cilantro, for garnish

Lay the slices of eggplant out on a towel or cloth and sprinkle all the cut surfaces generously with salt. Let the eggplant disgorge for about 15-20 minutes, then wipe the pieces dry with paper towels.

Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of each eggplant slice with olive oil and cook in the skillet, not overlapping the slices, until well browned on both sides. You'll no doubt have to do this in batches. Remove the slices to a plate and set aside.

In a bowl combine the honey and lemon juice with about 2/3 cup (160ml) hot water, stirring to dissolve. Heat your skillet again, adding a little more oil if there is none left. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring for about thirty seconds, then add the cumin and harissa, stirring for about another thirty seconds. Stir in the honey-lemon water and bring everything to a boil.

Lay the eggplant pieces into the pan, overlapping if needed, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning the pieces as necessary to ensure all are coated with the sauce, until it has been reduced to a thick glaze and the eggplant pieces are completely soft (add a bit more water if the sauce reduces before the eggplant is ready). Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed.

Let cool, sprinkle with a handful of chopped cilantro/coriander, and serve at room temperature with chunks of fresh bread, preferably as part of a meze or appetizer spread.

Dan's note: about 1/4 inch thick would be perfect, I think. The glaze is nice- sweet with a hot aftertaste.

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