Thursday, 14 August 2014

Pasta from the Past

Pasta "Araba" con Melanzane, Datteri, Pinoli, Pomodorini, Coriandolo & Ras el Hanout
"Arabian-Spiced" Pasta with Eggplant, Dates, Pine Nuts, Cherry Tomatoes, Coriander & Ras el Hanout

I decided to "get my freak on" in the kitchen this evening, got in touch with my inner-self and channeled my Sicilian roots... raided my spice cupboard and put together this dish.

And although it is not based on any particular traditional Sicilian recipe, it does have ingredients that are typical to the recipes from "The Old Country" and a spice-mix that dates back further still, to the days when the Arabs ruled the land...


 It looks rich, doesn't it- and just a little exotic... but the thing is that without the dates, pine nuts and the Ras el Hanout spice, and with basil instead of coriander, this would just be a plate of "Pasta alla Norma", THE most typical Sicilian pasta dish. And at the same time, we do still use a mix of pine nuts and raisins in many, many dishes, just like in days of yore...

So I decided to elaborate on the eggplant and tomatoes and add dates, rather than raisins, coriander, rather than basil, and a hint of the exotic, with a saffron-tinged "Ras el Hanout Jaune" powder. And I have to tell you my friends, that the resulting combination tasted as if it simply was meant to be! And after thoroughly enjoying it- I have to say... it IS meant to be! And meant to be enjoyed!

Just a few ingredients gave this plate of Spaghetti SO much flavor! 3 mini-eggplants, 1 shallot, 4 dates, a small bunch of coriander, 9-10 cherry tomatoes, a tablespoon of pine nuts and a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout.

Of course, you can use any other pasta and prepare it in the same way- and I would go as far as to say that if you were to use a shape like penne, orecchiette or farfalle for example, you could even serve this up cold as a pasta salad. In fact... I think I will have to try that idea out for myself!


I began by cutting the eggplants in to slices, sprinkling them with a little salt and letting them sit for 5-6 minutes whilst the water for my spaghetti came up to the boil and whilst I prepared the other ingredients...


I diced the shallot and the dates up finely and cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters. Garlic would have been a good addition... but alas, none was there and so none went into mine! And at the same time, I have to say that it is not going to be either a deal-maker or a deal breaker!

Whilst the spaghetti is boiling away, sautée the eggplant slices in just a little olive oil until it becomes lovely and golden.

Add the shallot the dates and the cherry tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and keep on stirring! As the tomatoes begin to cook and the shallot begins to sizzle, the eggplant slices begin to soak of the juices and flavor and things begin to smell very good indeed...


Once the tomatoes have begun to soften and the eggplant has begun to soak up the juices, you are ready to drain the spaghetti and to start bringing this dish together!


Drain the spaghetti as soon as it is almost "al dente", though not too thoroughly and add it, along with some of the water that it cooked in, along with a heaped teaspoon of Ras el Hanout,.

Stir together well continue cooking for 3-4 minutes until the pasta has soaked-up all of the juices and flavor- and you are almost ready to enjoy!

Add a good pinch of finely chopped coriander and a drizzle of olive oil before serving and get ready to fall in love with your supper!

Add a generous scattering of toasted pine nuts, freshly ground black pepper and a last few drops of olive oil and enjoy!

The sweetness of the dates compliments the spices so well and the pine-nuts add wonderful crunch and richness- all this combined with the tomato and eggplant flavors and finished with the refreshing coriander... well- do you doubt for even a second that this is going to be a real treat in every way?

Grab yourselves a fork and spoon and come join me for supper!

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