About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007
Chicken or The Eggplant
I’ve got a friend who invites me to his place for a barbeque and says that there’ll be some steaks, bbq lamb chops and sausages and as a casual afterthought some chicken for the vegetarians! He’s not the sort of bloke to contaminate his grill with vegetables, which is kind of a pity for there is nothing like a batch of vegetables straight off the grill, with their flavours enhanced by smoky goodness and deep grill marks. It is almost de riguer these days to grill asparagus straight on the flame, with a light caress of olive oil and a gentle sprinkle of sea salt crystals and if anyone knows a better way to cook asparagus….I’m listening.

But there is one vegetable that also demands to be cooked on the barbeque and that is eggplant (aubergine). There is some alchemy at work between eggplant and flame that gives this mysterious looking vegetable a flavour that is unmatched by any other method of cooking. Eggplant absorbs smoke in the same way it absorbs oil, copiously. Never marinate sliced eggplant destined for the barbeque, for as it softens, all the excess oil and whatnot will drip down and cause an almighty flare-up. Of course if you like your food really well done, then be my guest. Better to gently brush the oil on with a pastry brush or if you like tactile experiences, rub the oil on with your clean hands.

If you have herb infused oils, this is a great vegetable to use them on, especially thyme, rosemary or oregano flavoured ones. You could make like the tv chefs and use bunches of the aforementioned herbs to add the flavour in, simply gather a few stalks of whatever takes your fancy, even in combination, dip in some olive oil and use it as a brush. Just be careful as eggplants really slurp up the oil.

But there is an even better way to enjoy the taste of this unique vegetable and that is to chargrill it until completely softened and black, not that black is a colour you can easily see with an eggplant, scoop out the flesh and turn it into baba ganoush (eggplant dip). It is pretty easy to just roast eggplants in your home oven, but the really glorious smoky flavour that is the hallmark of this dish can only be obtained with direct heat. There is not really a recipe for baba ganoush, more just directions.

For every two large eggplants, roast on the grill, turning until they are blackened and soft. When cool, scoop out the flesh into a bowl, mash with a fork and add two tablespoons of tahina (ground sesame seed paste), available from Middle Eastern stores, one or two cloves of crushed, raw garlic, juice from half a lemon and season with salt. Mix and taste. You will almost certainly need to add some more of something, let taste be your guide as it all depends on how much eggplant pulp you obtained. If you like it a little creamier add more tahina, sharper, a little more lemon juice, afraid of vampires - as much garlic as you like - but too much will make it taste hot.

When you’re happy with the flavour, pile it onto a plate, sprinkle with a little paprika and place a couple of parsley leaves in the centre and serve with corn chips or torn pieces of flat bread. Or if you were like my mate and feeding 'vegetarians', grill a chicken breast and when it’s done, lightly toast a flat bread, open it out, fill with slices of chicken breast, salad leaves and a good dollop of baba ganoush.

This is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Scott at Real Epicurean . If you would like another lovely take on this special vegetable, check out this post.
  posted at 10:02 am

At 11:14 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Must have been two years ago, I was on a baba ganoush rampage, making it every week. How is it these things fall by the wayside and we forget them. Must make this again soon! Wonder if it would go very well with gnocchi, I suddenly have a lot of that around here.
Chicken for the vegetarians! What is it with some folks.

At 12:13 pm, Blogger Kalyn said...

I agree, eggplant on the grill is a very good thing. Ok, I confess, I've never made baba ghanoush. I do like it a lot though.

At 1:05 pm, Blogger plum said...

Matt Evans had a fantastic recipe for roasted eggplant dip (best I've ever had) but unfortunately it has been lost in time. Still remember it fondly (and hungrily!)

At 2:50 pm, Anonymous kitchen hand said...

Thanks, Neil. Homemade baba ganoush is one of my very favourite things to eat. You're right, it takes up the smoke and that makes it.

I'm showing my age, but I first ate baba ganoush at Lebanese House in Russell Street in 1976. I've been there about a million times since.

At 4:51 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, I think something in adish suddenly tickles your fancy, then you just have your fill and need to give it a rest. With gnocchi? I'm not so sure.

Hi kalyn, if the tahina passes south beach muster it could be good for the diet, lets not talk about the bread to scoop it up with.

Hi plum, I think we have all done that, I lost a very good Turkish recipe that I wish I could find. How's the frypan?

Hi kitchen hand, I've only eaten there a couple of times, Almazett is where I've been a few times.

At 12:48 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

I truly don't understand people who don't love eggplant. It is the greatest vegetable in the world :) I lovelovelove baba ghanoush, and who can resist spicy Szechuan-style eggplant hotpot with pork mince, all sticky and sweet with hot bean sauce. Mmm....

At 8:32 am, Blogger Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I love dips made with aubergine. I loved having a similar one on my holidays in Greece with some nice crusty bread.

At 8:17 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi helen, mmmmm....Szechuan style, yes, yes, yes!!!

Hi scott, there are a few different dips, all variations on a theme. I bet yours tasted good in Greece.

At 1:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love eggplants. Unfortunately I only get to eat them when we're out for dinner now because the boy doesn't eat eggplants, though I do cook myself some whenever I'm really craving for some.

Re: Chicken for vegetarians, I know of someone who calls herself a vegetarian though she makes room for chicken and seafood. I suppose she's not really vegetarian in that sense but she loves chicken and said that it was the only thing she couldn't give up when she decided to change her diet.

At 6:42 pm, Blogger mahak said...

Hey... we in India also make something similar, we chargrill it once, remove the flesh and cook it up again with garlic, tomota paste and onions in a n open pan. Tastes great too :)


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