Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Real Nice Spice

Insalata di Melanzane, Bulgur, Tamarindo & Pomodoro
Eggplant, Bulgur, Tamarind & Tomato Salad

Here is a nice, easy, light and delicious meal for you... ready in just 30 minutes or so and just as healthy as healthy can be whilst still being full of flavor and texture... oh yes, you are going to like it!

I used one of my favorite spices, or spice mixtures to be accurate, "Ras el Hanout Rouge", which is a mild and finely ground version of the classic mix, with a little more rose petal, paprika and cardamom- it is so aromatic and mild that you can go to town with it a little and really enjoy all of those good flavors without worrying about it getting too spicy... It's all good stuff!

I made this simple, cold dish, from 1 eggplant, 2 tomatoes, 2 cups of Bulgur, a Spring onion, a lemon, plenty of parsley, 5-6 candied tamarind, a half teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon of Ras el Hanout Rouge powder, 1 tablespoon of Tahini, 1 tablespoon of chopped almonds. Not much in the way of ingredients really... but boy is the result tasty and delicious!

The first thing to do is to slice the eggplant relatively finely, to salt it on both sides and to let it sit for 10 minutes in order for it to draw moisture and get rid of some of the bitterness... but fear not, as whilst that is going on you can make use of the time by chopping up the parsley for example, preparing a little lemon zest for the bulgur and slicing up the onion... it all needs to be done!

I also finely chopped the candied tamarind, making sure to discard the hard stone in the center and then added it along with the finely sliced Spring onion, the Ras el Hanout, the fennel seed and finely sliced lemon zest to the bulgur. I added a little salt and pepper and covered the bulgur with twice its volume in boiling water... and then left it to soak for 15 minutes.

The important thing to remember about the bulgur, is that it needs stirring every 5 minutes or so to help it absorb the water and to become light and fluffy. After stirring it twice, add half of the parsley and the juice of a half a lemon, along with about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil- more than enough to add a fine touch flavor... but fear not, for
the Tahini will finish that job for us soon enough!

I then poured just enough water into my frying pan to cover the surface and dropped in 3 slices of eggplant. I left them bubbling away for 2-3 minutes and in the meantime sliced up the 2 tomatoes, ready to be added in just a short while as soon as we began to put the salad together...

As soon as the water was nearly evaporated from the eggplant, I flipped the slices carefully over and repeated the procedure, only this time I added a few drops of sesame oil to the water. What this did, was that it coated the eggplant ever-so-lightly with oil, once the water had evaporated away, which in turn allowed the eggplant to turn nicely and gently brown.

I repeated the procedure of carefully steaming and frying the eggplant and began to set the finished slices out on a serving dish with half of the tomatoes, a sprinkle of pepper and parsley... and a ravenous hunger!

I then spooned the remaining, finished and flavorsome bulgur over the top of the eggplant and tomatoes and started all over again with a new layer of tomatoes, seasoning and parsley... yummy-yum-yum!

I built mine up out of 2 layers each of tomato and bulgur... but I guess that all depends on how large your serving dishes are! And the only important thing is getting all of those good flavors to combine well anyway!

Have a little nibble in-between and check on the all-round seasoning- if it needs salt- add salt! You shouldn't need any extra sweetness as the tamarind, which is of course tangy and a little bit sour, was of course sugar coated and of course well balanced as an addition to the spices, bulgur and eggplant.

With the final layer, I added the chopped almonds which I dry roasted for just a few minutes prior to getting this cooking party started! They added the tasty crunch that made all of the great sweet and spicy flavors come to life. And now that everything was nearly perfect, came the final, finishing touch of that tablespoon of Tahini, drizzled all over, a scattering of fresh, green parsley to make things pretty... and of course a fork for me to tuck-into and enjoy with!

A little salt and pepper, maybe a drop more sesame oil or Tahini, and perhaps a trickle or two of lemon juice might be a good idea to have on the table if you have guests. That way you can have it as mild or spicy as you. or your guests, wish... but as I said- I am guessing that you will enjoy the flavor of the Ras el Hanout that much that you will be adding more and more of the stuff! ;-)

This fantastic salad probably tastes better still a day later- only who can know for sure? I for one can't say for sure, as I ate all of mine up within a few minutes... but I can make an educated guess and say yeah. How can this not simply taste amazing the day after when it was so phenomenal the day before!?!? Just make it- you'll like it!

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