Andhra Aubergine, Coconut and Tamarind Curry by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

This is a lovely dish to be served alongside an Indian menu. The tamarind brings a sourness that is offset by the creaminess of the baked eggplant underpinned by a subtle nuttiness that the coconut adds.

All around a great side dish that won’t disappoint.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

2 aubergines (eggplants), cut into 1/4 batons lengthways
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 c cup of grated coconut
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cm cinnamon stick
10 curry leaves
1 white onion thinly sliced
3 garlic gloves crushed
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with 250ml water
2 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
Coriander to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, put aubergines in a roasting tray and coat with 4 tablespoons of oil coated. Roast for 20mins. Meanwhile, put the coconut and yoghurt in a blender and blitz into a paste. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds so they start to crackle then add in the cinnamon stick. Fry for a few seconds then add in the curry leaves and onion, fry for about 10mins so they are soft and starting to turn golden. Add garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to a low and add the coconut paste and remaining ground spices. Fry for 5 mins then add in the tamarind paste/water, sugar and salt.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the cooked aubergines. Cover and cook over lot for about 8 mins until the sauce is thick and coats the aubergines. Garnish with coriander.

Yotem Ottolenghi’s Aubergine Dumplings Alla Parmigiana

Serves: 4

This really is a dish that tells you that vegetables really are better than meat.

Line it up against a chicken parmigiana and hands down the eggplant wins. Even without the shallow fried-breadcrumb.

The basil. The ricotta. The Parmesan. The toasted breadcrumbs.

Brilliant.

I don’t often cook a dish twice in quick succession, though this is now in the repertoire. Make the sauce a few days ahead, the aubergine mixture in the afternoon and bam, with a salad of greens, you’ll have just a marvellous dinner on your hands.

Another Ottolenghi home-run.

Ingredients

90gm fresh breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough)
4 aubergines (eggplants) roughly cut into 2 1/2cm cubes (1kg)
150ml olive oil, plus extra for shaping
100gm ricotta
75gm Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
10gm parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
6 garlic cloves, crushed
15gm basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 x 400gm tins of peeled plum tomatoes, blitzed until smooth (600gm)
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
3/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
45gm pitted Kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and dried out. Set aside to cool and turn the oven temperature up to 220c.
  2. On a large, parchment-lined tray, toss the aubergines with 75ml of oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until golden brown.
  3. Roughly chop the aubergines not a chunky mash, then transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Once cool, add the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, yolk, flour, breadcrumbs, a third of the garlic, 10gm of the basil, 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well, then with lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into 16 golf-ball-sized dumplings, about 55gm each, compressing them as you go so they hold together.
  4. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. In two batches, fry the dumplings for 3-4 minutes, turning them until golden-brown all over. Adjust the heat if they’re browning too much. Add another 1 tbsp of oil and fry the remaining dumplings in the same way. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the remaining 2 tbsp of oil into a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chilli flakes, paprika, oregano, 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Pour 400ml of water, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Pour the sauce into a medium baking dish, top with the dumplings and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven, scatter over the olives, the remaining basil and a grating of Parmesan, and serve.

Nigella Lawson’s Involtini

Serves: 6

We were booked for lunch at Alberto’s Lounge, a totally hip Italian joint in the middle of the Sydney CBD.

No kids, long-lunch, no deadlines. A perfect Saturday lunch.

And then the text lobbed in on Friday night. I was a casual contact at my new gym: get tested and isolate until you have a result.

Bugger.

So Nat said Alberto’s was coming to our place and whilst I was getting tested, Nat was procuring veal shoulder for a ragu and all the ingredients for this wonderful involtini.

The last time I had involtini, Nat also cooked it though with veal and during a long weekend in the Hunter Valley. I really wish I had typed that dish up; a mistake I was not going to make with this involtini.

I mean, thousands of 5-star reviews on NYTimes Cooking are unlikely to be wrong.

Open the Champagne and decant some solid wines!

In fairness, I don’t really know if this is what Alberto’s would have dished up, though if it was to be excellent, home-cooked Italian, then this involtini would have been on the cards.

Ingredients

3 eggplants, about 500gm each, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick slices; about 16 slices
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
225gm feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c pine nutes
1/3 c raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes until plump, then drained
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 tbsp (fresh) breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves plus some to serve
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180c. Place a ridged cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat and working in batches, brush eggplant slices on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and cook, turning until soft and crisscrossed with grid marks. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine feta, pine nuts, raisins, 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, mint and parsley. Mix in egg and season well.
  3. Spread eggplant slices on a surface and divide stuffing evenly among them, placing 1 to 2 tbsp at one end of each slice. Roll up slices tightly to secure filling and place in a baking dish large enough to fit snugly in a single layer.
  4. Pour crushed tomatoes on top of the eggplant rolls and arrange the mozzarella slices in a line lengthwise down the centre of the pan. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil evenly over the pan and season well.
  5. Bake until the cheese has melted and eggplant is bubbling and fragrant; about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, stand for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Lemon & Mint Eggplant Tagine with Almond Couscous (or Cauliflower Rice)

Serves: 4

This year, all of us in the RobbyDog family are observing Meat Free Monday.

Better for the environment and surely better for us. (We’re on a major diet post a major Christmas diet!)

Prior to this dish, I had never had a vegetarian tagine though Lordy, I wish I had!

It is simple.

It tastes wonderful.

It is super-low calorie at 361 calories.

And it is so filling. Like, you’re stuffed so much so that I had to double-check the servings to make sure I wasn’t eating for two.

(I wasn’t!)

We also switched out the couscous and almonds for cauliflower rice, saving a pile of calories in the process: definitely sub 300-calories which is our twice-daily meal target.

Finally, we added a chilli to the yoghurt which is a necessary addition of spice.

Every time we jump into a diet, we can’t stop fawning over how wonderful vegetables are on all the levels described above. We look a bit silly.

Hopefully, by adding many great vegetarian dishes to our repertoire over the next few months of shredding, we won’t forget.

Meat Free Monday is a pretty good way to start.

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped + 1 crushed
1 tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200ml vegetable stock
400gm can chopped tomato
1 large eggplant, trimmed and diced
Zest of 1 small lemon
400gm can of butter beans, drained
175gm whole meal couscous
40gm toasted flaked almond
150gm low fat Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp chopped mind
1 red chilli, chopped with seeds

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and softly fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir ion the harissa, cumin and cinnamon, cook briefly and add the stock and tomatoes.
  2. Add the eggplant and lemon and then cover the pan and cook gently for 15 – 20 minutes until the eggplant are tender. Add the butter beans and warm through.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the yoghurt, additional garlic, mint and chill=i.
  4. Cook the couscous and then stir in the almonds. Alternatively, prepare cauliflower rice.
  5. Serve the tagine on the couscous (or cauliflower rice) with the yoghurt drizzled over.

Nigella’s Beef and Eggplant Fatteh

Serves: 4

Hats off Nigella, as simple – and predictable – as this recipe seems, when everything comes together; especially cooking everything as slow as you can, it is a wonderful weekend meal.

And it is quite literally is about it al coming together: the toasted pita chips, the mince and dollops of the warm yoghurt/tahini mixture.

Throw on top toasted pine nuts, shredded mint and pomegranate seeds* and you really couldn’t ask for more except for a second glass of wine as you watch Masterchef** on Monday night.

Hats off again. A cracker.

Ingredients

Base

4 pita breads, slit open and cut into nacho-sized triangles.

Topping

500gm Greek yoghurt
75gm tahini
45ml lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste

Eggplant-beef layer

3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste
500gm minced beef

Garnish

125g pomegranate seeds
50gm pine nuts, toasted
1 – 2 tbsp finely shredded mint leaves

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c.
  2. Spread the pita triangles on a large baking tray and toast in the oven until toasted, moving them around regularly to ensure even toasting. Set aside until needed.
  3. Bat the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice and 1 tsp of salt together in a heat proof bowl which will later be used to sit over a saucepan. Check the salt levels and adjust as needed.
  4. Warm the oil over a low heat in a wide, heavy frypan. Add the onion and sauté for 10 – 15 minutes until softened and caramel.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium, add the eggplant cubes and stir well to mix with the onion. Cook for 10 minutes or until the eggplant is golden, stirring frequently.
  6. Stir in the cumin, coriander and teaspoon of the paprika and a teaspoon of salt. Increase the heat to high and add the beef mince, breaking it up. Cook until browned. Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the seasoning.
  7. Heat a saucepan of water and bring to a slow simmer. Place the bowl of tahini-yoghurt mixture on top, ensuring the bowl does not touch the water. Beat until the yoghurt is slightly above water temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.
  8. To assemble, arrange the crisp pita triangle on a large plate. Top with the eggplant-beef mixture, followed by the tahini-yoghurt sauce. Sprinkle with paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and then finish with the shredded mint leaves.

* In a rush, I grabbed a Fuji fruit rather than a pomegranate. Laughs all round.

** Where we saw this recipe.

Beef and eggplant moussaka

Serves: 6

Based on a recent cooking show Nat and I watched, I gather that moussaka is regarded as a bit ho-hum in the UK.

Just like Pad Thai is for us in Australia.

In Australia however, Greek food isn’t a mainstream staple and moussaka isn’t something you pick up from the corner store. Greek food is a treat.

The Ashes family introduced me to moussaka. It is one of their staples and they take it seriously.

To satisfy the breadth of palates in the family, the last time I did this en masse (there were eight of us eating), I did a turkey mince and beef mince number. Genuinely, the turkey mince was the slightly more interesting of the two, though either way, you cannot go wrong.

Live the good life, plan to go for a run tomorrow and find a bottle of red to open.

And cook this.

Ingredients

2 large (1kg) eggplants
Sea salt
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 kg minced beef
1 x 400gm can tomatoes
½ cup tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp sambal oelek
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground hot paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
¼  cup grated parmesan cheese

Cheese sauce

100g, butter
½ cup plain flour
3 cups milk
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Cut eggplants into 5mm slices, place on wire rack, sprinkle with salt, stand 20 minutes. Rinse slices under cold water, drain, pat dry with absorbent paper. Brush slices with oil, add to pan in batches, cook until browned on both sides; drain on paper towel.
  2. Heat extra oil in the same pan, add onion and garlic, cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add beef, cook, stirring, until beef is browned. Stir in undrained crushed tomatoes, paste, wine, herbs, nuts, sambal oelek and spices, simmer, covered, about 25 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  3. Cheese sauce: Melt butter in pan, stir in flour, stir over heat until bubbling. Remove from heat, gradually stir in milk, stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, stir in cheese; cool 5 minutes.
  4. Place one-third of the eggplant over base of a greased shallow ovenproof dish, top with half the beef mixture. Repeat layering with remaining eggplant and beef mixture, ending with eggplant. Spread cheese sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 180°C for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned.

Eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

Eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

Serves: 10

Fresh Baba Ganoush is the bomb.

Served with some oiled and grilled Turkish bread, you have heaven.

This straightforward recipe is about as traditional as I can find and we served it across a few days including a family dinner where it was a hit.

The effort is worth the reward.

Ingredients

3 medium eggplants
1 ½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 – 2 garlic clove
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Finely diced tomato
Oiled, grilled Turkish bread slices to serve

Method

  1. Grill the eggplants whole over a gas flame, turning with tongs until the skin is evenly blistered and the flesh is soft. Soak in cold water for 10 minutes to cool.
  2. Peel the eggplants and leave to drain for 15–20 minutes.
  3. Place the eggplant in a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and process until well combined and creamy. Add extra tahini, lemon juice or salt to taste.
  4. Scoop into a serving bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the oil into the well and sprinkle paprika, parsley and tomato on top.

Simple Open Moussaka with Yoghurt Dressing

Simple Open Moussaka with Yoghurt Dressing

Serves: 4

We’ve been using a food service – Marley Spoon – for the past few months.

It came recommended and at its best, it is really pretty good; I certainly referred it onto a few friends.

You select your meals for the week and a few days later, a box is delivered containing individual paper bags for each meal and very clear recipe cards. The ingredients – especially the meat, poultry and seafood – are fresh, very high-quality and in their own chill-bags for the period they sit on your doorstep.

Each dish is relatively easy to prepare and except for one outlier where we were still hungry, a week where we seemed to eat Soba noodles every night, and one or two other meals that just didn’t quite make the taste grade, Marley Spoon has been great.

I say ‘has’ been great because this week, we stopped.

The convenience factor and the quality of packaging and instructions factor no longer trumped the value factor… and the meals just stopped feeling unique and the formula behind Marley Spoon seemed exposed to us.

When baby #3 arrives in June, I’d imagine we’ll start again, though for now, we just want to start cooking our own recipes again.

And having enough for lunches the next day.

And being rich again.

After tonight’s second last Marley Spoon dinner however, it turns out that Marley Spoon gifted us one better than just another week of their high-gloss recipe cards and crisp paper bags.

They gifted us this healthy Moussaka and it was really, very good.

Especially considering how easy it was to prepare.

Nothing beats a 3-hour Moussaka production on a Sunday afternoon, though equally, nothing beats a 30-minute Mousakka on a Thursday evening.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

Olive oil
2 eggplants
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500gm lamb mince (we had lean beef mince and it was just fine)
2 cups, chicken stock (hot)
2 cans, 400gm chopped tomatoes
1 lemon
200gm low-fat Greek-style yoghurt
60gm tahini
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
100gm baby rocket to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220c. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Trim the ends from the eggplants and slice lengthways; you’ll need 12 – 16 slices about 5mm thick: 3 – 4 per person.
  2. Place the slices on the prepared tray and lightly brush with oil. Season and roast until softened and golden: around 15 – 20 minutes.
  3. Heat 1tbsp oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to high, add the mince and cook, stirring over a high-heat for 5 minutes or until the mince is browned.
  4. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes to the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until thickened.
  5. Squeeze 2 tbsp lemon juice into a bowl. Stir in the yoghurt, tahini, combine well and season.
  6. Arrange an eggplant slice on each plate and spoon over some of the lamb mixture. Top with another slice of eggplant and repeat until all used. Top with a few dollops of the yoghurt dressing and serve with rocket leaves and a cold vino.

Bobby Flay’s Grilled Eggplant Dip

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Handsome and a good cook. Both things I aspire to!

Serves: 8 as part of a share platter

Bobby Flay isn’t a household name in Australia though the reverse is true in America where he is a superstar of cooking.

I first heard about him on Iron Chef America and despite his good looks and cool swagger, this is not a man you want to challenge in the kitchen. From memory, he never lost a challenge.

Anyway, this is his eggplant dip and whilst there is a little effort to it, it has a subtle, sophisticated and really fine flavour to it. I grilled some Turkish bread brushed will olive oil and served that with the dip and that Oliver had five in quick succession tells you volumes.

Impress your mates and serve this up fresh next time they’re around. Better still if you have good looks and cool swagger.

P.S. I didn’t oil the vegetables to cut down on calories and I saw no downside. Except less calories! Oh, and really do try to serve this fresh or if refrigerated, allow time to come back to room temperature and give a good stir to combine.

Ingredients

1 red pepper (capsicum)
¼ c canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large or 2 medium eggplant, ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise, 2cm thick
2 cloves garlic
¼ c tahini
¼ c Greek (fat-free) yoghurt
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped, fresh oregano
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
¼ c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pita breads or Turkish breads, brushed with olive oil, heated on the grill to serve

Method

  1. Heat a grill to medium. Brush the red pepper with some of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with more of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill the eggplant until charred on the first side; around 3 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until tender; around 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a chopping board.
  3. Grill the red pepper, turning occasionally until charred all over and tender; around 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with cling wrap and let steam while you make the eggplant puree.
  4. Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle them with salt and mash and smear them to a paste using the side of a knife.
  5. Remove the skin from the eggplant and transfer the flesh to a food processor. Add garlic paste, tahini, yoghurt, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the lemon zest, oregano and smoked paprika. Process until smooth and thick. Add salt to taste and transfer to a serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
  6. Peel, seed and dice the red pepper.
  7. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the dip (I gave this a miss), top with the diced peppers and chopped parsley and serve with the warm pita, lavash or grilled Turkish bread.

Eggplant Chips

Serves: 4 – 8 snacking guests

The most important thing about this rather simple dish is not that it is low in carbs, nor that the chips taste great.

No, the most important thing is that you get the eggplant slices as dry as you can.

Because as we know, good chips are dry chips. If need be, bake a little longer than instructed to get them golden.

And enjoy!

Ingredients

6 baby eggplants
2 tbsp sea salt
Oliver oil cooking spray
1 c no-fat Greek-style yoghurt
1 small Lebanese cucumber, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. After washing the eggplants, slice the eggplants into thinish discs.
  2. Place the eggplant discs on a tray and sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to remove excess moisture.
  3. Heat the oven to 180c and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  4. Pat the eggplant slices with paper towel to remove any excess moisture and salt. Place the eggplant discs on the baking tray, spray both sides of the eggplant discs with the oil and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon rind and dill in a bowl to make the tzazziki dip.
  6. Season and drizzle with a little olive oil if you wish.