Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Getting Cut-Up About the Spices

Melanzana Arrosto con Harissa, Tahini & Miele su un Letto di Couscous Esotico
Roasted Eggplant with Harissa, Tahini & Honey on Exotic Couscous

This evening, I decided to make eggplant... again! And do you know what? I will make it again and again and again and I doubt that I will ever get tired of it or ever run out of ways to make wonderful meals with it! It is really versatile and goes so well with so many flavors. The only thing I am not so keen on is fried eggplant as it tends to soak up too much oil for my taste- but other than that- anything goes!

And being as anything goes- sometimes I like to go ahead and try something new out, which is exactly what I decided to do this evening! I had bought myself some Harissa on Saturday, as I have always heard the name but had never tried it out... and as I thought to myself that there is no time like the present, as things turned out- tonight was the night!

This was a very simple but totally delicious meal to make. The first thing that I did, to prepare it, was to cut the eggplants in half and then to make criss-cross cuts into them as you can see in the photos. I then sprinkled them with salt and let them sit and "do their thing" whilst I did my thing and got busy preparing the couscous that was to be served with them.

Obviously, the first thing to do was to pour enough boiling water over the couscous to cover it by about an inch and to let it sit and "cook" all by itself... I stirred it once and let it sit and do it's thing too whilst I prepared the ingredients that I was going to add, which were, for this single serving, 1 finely sliced Spring onion, a handful of cilantro, a stalk or two of parsley, closely chopped, 3-4 dried apricots finely diced, a handful each of raisins and barberries, as well as a good handful of almonds which I also finely chopped.

After 15-20 minutes, the eggplant had given off quite a bit of juice, (which is why we salted it in the first place) and I carefully "wrung" the eggplant out to get rid of those juices, which of course are filled with the bitterness that sometimes accompanies them. And this was the time that I put together the nice glaze that I was to brush the now mild and ready to cook eggplant with. But before I busied myself with that task, I popped the halved eggplants onto a steam rack and let them pre-cook for 5 minutes or so.

Whilst the eggplant steamed, I added to a jar, 1 heaped teaspoon of harissa, 1 tablespoon of tahini paste, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of water. I gave the jar a good shake to blend everything together nicely and that was it- the eggplant dressing was ready!

I brushed the steamed eggplants with the spice mix and then popped them into the oven to 400°F for 10 minutes. And in those 10 minutes of course, I stirred all of the other finely chopped ingredients into the couscous, added a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, the juice of 1/2 of a lime and drizzle of sesame oil.

After 10 minutes of baking at a high temperature, the eggplant was tender and smelt delicious... and all I needed to do now was to add a light drizzle of honey, turn on the grill function on the oven and to let the eggplants turn lovely and deep orange and brown. When I added the honey of course, being a sensible fellow, I popped the chopped almonds into the oven along with it for the next 4-5 minutes.

All I needed to do no was to serve up the couscous on a small platter and lay the eggplant slices decoratively on top. A last few drops of olive oil, a couple of fresh coriander leaves as a garnish and my supper was ready... hurray! The spicyness of the harissa, the earthy, "nutti-ness" of the tahini and the richness of the sesame oil combined wonderfully with the sweetness of the honey to make the eggplant more than delicious! And the cosucous, with all of those good things going on, was the perfect accompaniment. Add this to the fact that this is really healthy and you have a perfect meal. But don't take my word for it- try it for yourselves!


  1. Did you use all of the tahini dressing or was there some left over? Also, did you add any oil to the couscous, or did it get enough richness from the eggplant?

  2. Hello Faye :-) and of course you are right, I have overlooked mentioning that I did indeed use some sesame oil as well as the juice of half a lime to dress the couscous! Thanks for pointing it out! I guess I should start writing up my recipes a little earlier in the evening in future ;-) best wishes and hope you enjoy it! Francesco