Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Roll Up! Roll Up!

Involtini di Melanzane con Riso alla Menta, Rucola al Forno, Pomodorini & Cotogne
Eggplant Rolls with Feta Cheese & Mint Rice, Oven Baked Arugula and Cherry Tomato & Chili- Quince Relish

TIme for something a little lighter this time around- one of my "vegetarian meals with bacon" as it happens! Because... like it or not, that little bit of bacon goes a long way to elevate the flavors of all of the other ingredients! So let's get busy and let me tell you how to make this very simple little meal...

The first thing I prepared was the rice, which I boiled in advance this morning... it is a lot easier to handle when you are rolling it in eggplant- trust me! I started off by finely chopping a shallot and frying it in a little olive oil, directly in my rice-cooker, until translucent. I then added a little finely chopped garlic, a tablespoon of dried mint, a squeeze of lemon and a hint of nutmeg- along with 1 cupful of rice. Once the rice was nicely coated, I added a splash of white wine and 2 cups of water, a little salt and pepper and let the machine do its thing. So, fortunately I had the rice pre-made and could easily add the Feta cheese without it sticking a clumping together. I crumbled the cheese up and added it to the rice- it was a mix of about 3/4 rice- 1/4 cheese. I added a little olive oil, a drizzle of honey and pinch of salt- and my filling for the rolls was finished.

Next, I cut 4 slices from my aubergine and popped them into a hot frying pan with just a pat of clarified butter and began frying them at a moderate heat. After 2-3 minutes of frying on either side, I deglazed the pan with a splash of white wine and put on the lid, containing the steam until all of the wine had evaporated... which happened quickly! I then turned off the heat and let it cool off whilst I prepared the relish...

The chili-quince I used to make this was a gift from a foodblogger friend of mine, Dorothée, who has a wonderful blog of her own- you can see how she made it here: http://bushcooks-kitchen.blogspot.com/2011/11/chili-quitten.html  Unfortunately it is in German, but it is a simple enough procedure and any of the online translation websites should make light work of it. I simply cut the quince up into a fine dice, added it to some sliced cherry tomatoes, along with some of the juice, added some finely chopped chives, salt, pepper and a drop of olive oil and that was it- a simply but yummy combination!

I prepared the arugula in the same way that I prepared the kale a month or so ago- by drizzling it very lightly with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and baking in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes. This dehydrates the leaves, making them delicately light and almost crispy, with a nutty and peppery flavor which is simply delicious!

So now I could finally put together the rolls! Firstly, I flattened the cool aubergine slices down a little, using the ball of my hand. If you cut the slices too thin- they will break when rolling... so this is definitely the better way to do it.  I put about 2 tablespoonfuls of the rice/cheese/mint filling onto each slice of aubergine and rolled it up tight. I then wrapped a half-strip of bacon around each roll to keep it shut- as long as the bacon overlaps onto itself it should be fine and there is no need to overdo it with too much bacon. The balance of all of these great flavors is what this dish is all about.

I baked the rolls in the same hot oven until the bacon was crispy- this takes between 5-10 minutes. Basically you are just bringing everything back up to temperature... all of the ingredients are cooked, so as soon as that bacon is crispy and golden you are ready to go!

Minty-fresh Feta cheese with honey, a mild Aubergine wrapping and a crispy salty bacon- all of that along with the fruity tomato and quince relish... and the oven baked arugula... well what more can I say? An easy, cheap and idiot-proof meal that is fit for a king! Or for you and me! Enjoy!