Thursday, 31 October 2013

Yummy Mummy!

Mummie di Melanzane per "Halloween"
Halloween Eggplant Mummies

I have to confess, that I myself have never "celebrated" Halloween. Growing up in England, of course the name of this spooky celebration exists, the imagery exists, the scary movies exist... but at least where I grew up, and especially in our house- there were no costumes or any trick-or-treating. It really IS an American celebration... and that is fine! Thanksgiving doesn't exist over here either and we still enjoy our turkey, albeit a little latter in the year at Christmas- the world is a strange place!

And in strange places, such as my kitchen, strange people like me, eat strange things like this! We don't have any of the traditions of candies or sweet treats over here, except of course for the occasional decorated cupcake or muffin- but that doesn't mean we can't at least have a little fun with our food! Or to put it more precisely- that can't have a little fun with mine!

This fun little idea was a great way to make excellent use of a lone eggplant, some cherry tomatoes, herbs, spices and mozzarella... and some of the last of the filo pastry that had patiently been waiting for me to come up with a smart idea to make use of it! I don't know how smart the idea was... but here it is!

I would love to tell you that kids are going to love this dish... but the kid that ate it was me :-) This was a nice and spicy creation, flavored with Ras el Hanout and a little cayenne, but of course, as many children will not be keen on eggplant in the first place, this may well be a way to get them to at least try it. By either reducing the amount of spice or skipping it completely and relying on the tomato, basil and mozzarella that go into the filling to win them over, this could be the start of some good culinary revelations for them. And on the plus side of things should they be keen on trying them... there will just be more for you to enjoy!

The first step is to peel and halve the eggplant and then to make a slanting cut into the flat side, about an inch from the outer edge, as you can see in the photos. Try to cut a little of the eggplant away, so as to leave room for the filling, and then steam the 2 halves for 5-6 minutes until it starts to go soft and to turn slightly translucent. 

In the meantime, stay busy and prepare the filling- which was in this case, for 1 eggplant, 3 cherry tomatoes, a half ball of Mozzarella, some chives, parsley and basil and a tablespoon of Ras el Hanout. I seasoned with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of cayenne and drop of olive oil. I stirred these all together well and let them sit and marinate whilst I took care of the eggplant and the tangy tomato sauce to go with it...

I took the eggplant out of the steamer and let it cool off, but sprinkled it with a little salt on the inside whilst it was still steaming. Whilst it was cooling, I finely chopped a shallot and half of a clove of garlic along with 5-6 cherry tomatoes, which all went into a saucepan together with a drop of olive oil. I fried it at a relatively high temperature for 2-3 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg, then added a splash of sherry vinegar and a pinch of sugar- hisss!! I then added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and enough water to dilute it down to a thin sauce. I then reduced the temperature and let the sauce just barely simmer for the remainder of the cooking time, with a couple of leaves of basil added to give it a nice perfumed aroma.

Now that the eggplant was cool, it was easy to fill with the spicy tomato and cheese mixture and then to press the cut-out part back into place. And the next thing of course, was to prepare the filo-pastry "bandages", which I made by simply rolling up 3-4 of the paper-thin pastry sheets and then cutting it into narrow strips. I laid the strips out, criss-crossing slightly, on my work surface and then laid the stuffed eggplant, upside-down on top.

I then folded and laid the strips shut on the rear-side and carefully flipped my Mummies head over. I then poured just a touch of olive oil onto my hands and carefully picked it up again, squeezed it a little and then placed it gently face-side up into a non-stick pan. This squeezing and the hands moistened in oil made the filo pastry moist and that is very important as it does actually need to brown a little, as well as coming up to temperature again. And speaking of which, the 2 mummies heads then went into the oven for 10-15 minutes at around 250°F, to warm-through, dry-out and crisp up. After 15 minutes, the pastry was crispy but not too brown... but that was nothing that couldn't be fixed by a very light drizzle of honey- and this was the time that I added those slices of black olive for the eyes and made a nice deep cut to create the mouth... what fun! Back into the oven it went and then out it came again, after just 1-2 minutes under the broiler, nice and brown and delicious!

I served them up with the tangy tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parsley and basil, which was excellent in contrast to the crispy pastry and the soft, juicy, spicy and cheesy interior... and which made the whole thing perfect!

So whether you attempt to treat your kids with this or not- it will definitely be a nice treat for grown-ups and fun eye-opener for your Halloween celebrations! Or just a yummy evening meal as it was for me! 

In any case- no matter how silly it may appear, the flavors are exceptional and there are many worse ways to prepare an eggplant, haha! Try it and see!

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