Thursday, 20 February 2014

Using Your Loaf

Sformato di Melanzane con i Crespelle, Pinoli, Tahini, Zenzero & Harissa
Savory Aubergine Loaf with Barberries, Pine Nuts, Tahini, Ginger & Harissa

I have to admit that I really am happy that I can still get excited about eggplant and find new ways to prepare it. There is nothing more boring than... boring food! Just because you have favorite ingredients, doesn't mean they have to become tedious. I use the same ingredients over and over again, I just try to prepare them in different ways. All it takes is a little thought, or a bit of "using your loaf" as the British like to call it!

So I "used my loaf" and ended up making a kind of loaf this evening- who knew you could even do such a thing? I didn't really... this just kind-of happened to be honest- but I am glad that it did! My main objective this evening was to do something really flavorful with the eggplant, but as I began obsessing over whether I should serve it with rice... or pasta... or couscous... or something else entirely, I suddenly changed my mind at the last minute and transformed it into this yummy loaf!

To make this you will need 1 large eggplant, 2 eggs, 5-6 tablespoons of bread crumbs, 3 teaspoons of barberries, 2 teaspoons of pine nuts, 2 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger, 9-10 cherry tomatoes, an onion, 1 handful each of parsley and mint and Harissa and Tahini to taste.

I started off by peeling and dicing the eggplant, finely chopping the onion- and yes. very finely chopping the ginger... or grating even. The only thing that is really important is that those good flavors are in there! And speaking of good flavors, a finely chopped clove of garlic would have been wonderful in this combination... if only I'd have had some at home! Grrr!

So- the eggplant, onion, ginger, barberries and pine nuts all went into a dry, non-stick pan, with a good pinch of salt and pepper and the temperature turned up high. Fear not- as within a couple of minutes, enough moisture will develop for everything to cook wonderfully, without it getting soaked in oil. Just keep stirring every minute or so, and after 10-15 minutes, you will have a nice, tender and juicy result.

Once the eggplant and onion were nicely cooked, I added roughly 5-6 tablespoons of bread crumbs to them, along with the finely chopped mint and parsley and 9-10 finely diced tomatoes. At this point I also added a good tablespoon of tahini and a teaspoon of harissa, some salt and pepper and just a pinch of cinnamon. Once all of these ingredients were added, the eggplant of course both cooled down rapidly as well as being made firmer by the bread crumbs soaking up a lot of the moisture.

Now that everything was cooled down, I was able to add the egg- I did this one at a time and I suggest you do the same- it is all about finding the right balance and of course no two eggplants are the same size, nor eggs- so you may need to add bread-crumbs accordingly if your mix is too soft. 

But again- in my case this evening, I needed 6 tablespoons of bread crumbs and 2 eggs to bind the one large eggplant into a soft but firm mass- roughly the consistency as it happens of the ground meat you would use to form hamburgers with. Or in this case... meat loaf!

Now that the mix was ready, all I needed to do was to lightly coat a baking dish with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of bread crumbs to prevent the loaf from sticking and gently spooning it in and patting it down firmly. 

Into a pre-heated oven it went, for 30-40 minutes at 375°F, on the middle shelf, to bake and become transformed into a truly delicious alternative to a classic meat loaf- and it all just happened by coincidence believe it or not! It was just one of those spur of the moment ideas- often the best way to go about cooking if you ask me!

And in the meantime... I managed to do my washing-up, which I always prefer to get out of the way before dinner is served if I can... hate me for that if you must!

After around 30 minutes, I fetched the loaf out of the oven to have a little sneak preview... the fragrance was outstanding, I must say! I drizzled the loaf lightly with a few drops of sesame oil and spread it over the surface with a brush, just to let the outermost bread crumbs crisp-up better and become a lovely golden brown- as well as to heighten the sesame flavor already there from the tahini... the great thing was that as simple as this dish is, because of the barberries and ginger, the tahini and the harissa, the resulting flavor is so yummy, spicy, tangy and terrific along with the fresh mint and juicy tomatoes... there is just so much going on in there!

And 5-10 minutes later, it was ready to serve... but absolutely piping hot! Which means that I almost burned my lips- as it was so irresistible that just couldn't wait any longer and absolutely had to try it!

Let me just say that this tasted terrific- ok? May I do that? I am sure the pictures speak for themselves anyway, but the best way to know what was so special about this would be simply to make this yourselves. Somehow, I don't think you will regret it! Have fun!

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