My brother and I have an annual tradition for Christmas, where his gift to me is a ticket to one day of the Boxing Day test, and mine to him is a picnic lunch for my brother and sister-in-law and their guests at the cricket that day. It’s a pretty good deal all round, except for the fact that my entry into the MCG seems to be the cue for everyone to forget how to bat properly – I’ve watched four batting collapses in four days of cricket over the last three years. But this year, I was in luck, and got to spend a fabulous day yesterday watching India play test cricket as though they were playing a one day match, and the batting was spectacular (the less said about Australia’s fielding, the better. Let’s just say that the batsmen spent most of the day throwing caution to the wind and hitting fours all over the place with impunity. I loved it.).
I always over-cater, and never more so than this year, especially because my mother inexplicably decided to bring lunch for her and dad. Apparently, it didn’t occur to my mother that I would be catering for them as well. Anyone would think she had never met me…
Anyway, I made a big beetroot and carrot salad, and planned to make spiced roast pumpkin pasties, only I was really tired when making the pastry and quadrupled the flour when I meant to double it… and of course once I figured that out, I had to add more of everything else and had way too much pastry, so I decided to throw together some eggplant tarts as well. Naturally, these turned out to be the hit of the day, which is a bit of a pest, since I hadn’t written down anything I’d done. Or taken any photos, which is why these ones are so bad.
So this is my attempt to reconstruct said tarts, because they really were tasty, and I’d like to make them again sometime.
Your Shopping List
90 ml olive oil
90 ml cold water
380 g flour (3 cups)
1 tsp herbed salt – I used the Garlic Lovers Spice from Gewürzhaus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 cloves garlic
2 medium eggplants
1/4 cup white wine
2 roasted peppers, sliced
1 x 180 g container Persian Feta, drained
a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
Now what will you do with it?
Slice the eggplant into 1cm slices, then cut these into quarters or 6ths, to make bite-sized squares. Layer them with salt in a colander and leave them to think about what they have done and how they should use their words next time.
To make the pastry, combine the flour, salt and seeds in a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour in the water, oil and egg, and mix together first with a fork and then with your hands until it comes together into a ball. Wrap in glad-wrap and chill until you are ready to use it.
In a medium skillet, heat enough olive oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan (yep, I know, that’s a lot – but you need enough that it won’t stick, and if you add the eggplant while it’s good and hot, you’ll find you use less in the long run than if you had to keep adding it). Drain and rinse the eggplant, and add to the oil with the salt and garlic. Sauté over a fairly high heat, keeping the eggplant moving until it’s all coated, then reduce the heat a bit, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for several minutes.
When it starts to stick, add the white wine – you may need more like half a cup, I honestly have no idea how much I added – and continue cooking over a fairly low heat until the eggplant is soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool, then drain off any oil that has come out.
Mix the eggplant with the roasted peppers, feta and mint.
Pinch off pieces of the pastry a bit smaller than a ping-pong ball, roll into a ball, and then use a rolling pin to flatten out into a circle big enough to line the hole in a muffin tin (of which you will need about 18, un-greased). Press into tin, and fill with some eggplant mixture. Continue until you have run out of pastry and filling.
Bake at 180°C, fan-forced if possible, for around 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and solid.
Eat warm or at room temperature.
This recipe is vegetarian and nut-free. With spelt flour it would be low-fructose, though it certainly contains lactose. It’s not truly awful on the GI thing, but it’s not perfect, either.
There are plenty of egg-free alternatives in terms of pastry – the easiest would be to make a pizza-dough tart case, or even use a slice of bread to line the muffin tins. Gluten-free pastries are also out there. To make this dairy-free, just leave out the feta. I suspect it would be fine just as it is, but you might add some roasted garlic, nuts, slow-roasted tomatoes, or another intensely-flavoured ingredient to make up for any loss of flavour complexity. If you like playing with vegan cheeses, you should certainly go for it.
You could also play around with the flavours in the tart a bit – sautéed zucchini with a bit of basil would be a nice addition to these tarts, and ricotta or bocconcini would also work to replace the Persian feta. Whatever appeals, really…
Don’t forget about the cricket, though.