This was a real treat! I hadn’t expected it to turn our so well. I’d improvised with what was lying around the house to make a lovely Mediterranean/Middle Eastern meze spread for dinner tonight. The eggplant really stood out as star of the show – the creamy texture along with the slightly aniseed tomato and crunchy pine nuts made for a really splendid feast. It went down a treat!
INGREDIENTS: (serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main)
1 large eggplant (cut into 3cm discs)
1 small red onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon aniseed seeds (or fennel seeds)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1x400g can chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper
3-4 tablespoons Greek style yoghurt
4 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley (finely chopped)
To make the tomato sauce:
Heat a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of the oil over a moderate heat until just hot, then add the aniseed seeds and sizzle for 10 seconds until aromatic. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 4-5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the cumin, paprika and cinnamon and stir for 20 seconds before adding the tomatoes – fill the can half full of water then add this to the pan and stir in. Season with salt & pepper then bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 20 minutes until reduced and quite thick – like jam. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Heat half the remaining oil over a moderate heat in a large frying pan – large enough to hold the eggplant in one layer (you may have to do it in batches). When hot, place in the eggplant and fry on one side for about 8 minutes, until golden brown and soft. Turn over, add a little more oil if needed and cook until brown on this side. Remove onto paper towels and blot to catch the excess oil. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. Leave to cool completely. With the pan still hot, add the pine nuts and cook for about 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Drain and cool on paper towels.
To arrange the dish:
When everything is at room temperature, arrange the eggplant in one layer on a platter. Add a spoon of tomato sauce on top, then a small dollop of yoghurt then sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts. Serve!
I served it as part of a bigger meze spread but it’s fine as a light lunch or supper on its own.