This recipe is inspired by our local Turkish restaurants, which we don’t go to nearly often enough, actually. They all have some variation of eggplant ‘yogurtlu’, eggplant that has been fried in oil until it is sweet and caramelised, and then cooked into a yoghurt sauce. Or something like that – I can deduce the ingredients, but I’m not 100% sure of the method. It’s amazing stuff – juicy and tangy and sweet and addictive – possibly the best ever use for eggplants.
Anyway, there were really beautiful eggplants at the shops yesterday, and we had guests round to dinner, so I thought I’d try giving it a shot. My version of eggplant yogurtlu was a great hit, with the one problem being that I have hardly any leftovers. We had it with youvetsi, a Greek lamb and tomato stew, because one of our guests doesn’t really eat vegetables unless you disguise them really well, or unless they are potatoes. But it would also be fabulous as a meal in its own right, just served with really good Turkish or Lebanese bread, or, of course, as part of a mezze platter.
Your Shopping List2 large eggplants (about 750 g) salt quite a lot more olive oil than most people would recommend, but really, it’s wonderful and you need it. 6 roma tomatoes 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
400 g tinned tomatoessalt, pepper, fennel, chilli, lavender 250 ml Greek yoghurt (incidentally, if you have access to Black Swan low fat Greek Yoghurt, I recommend it with enthusiasm) small bunch mint leaves
Now what will you do with it?
Start by slicing your eggplants into rounds 1 cm thick. If you are being posh, you could keep them in rounds – I tend to chop the rounds into quarters or thereabouts, so that I have bite-sized pieces. Layer them in a colander, sprinkling salt over each layer, and leave for ten minutes so that any bitter juices can drain out.
Now might be a good time to start playing with your tomatoes – and, incidentally, you can use all fresh or all tinned, just double one or the other, but I like the mix of both. Use a knife to mark a cross on the base of each tomato, and then put the tomatoes into a smallish, heat-proof bowl. Bring water to a boil, and pour over the tomatoes to cover. Leave for a couple of minutes, then drain the tomatoes and cover them with cold water this time.
In theory, the skins should come off easily at this point, but this really does depend how ripe they were. I will say that it is really kind of awesome when they do come off as they should.
By now, your eggplants will be ready for cooking. Rinse them so that they don’t wind up too salty. Get out your biggest skillet, and put in several tablespoons of olive oil to heat up. Dump in the eggplant, and cook over high heat, keeping them moving a bit, until they are soft and have some nice caramelised bits. You may need more oil. I’m sorry, but eggplants do drink the stuff, and it’s part of what makes them taste so magnificent, but if you start with hot oil, they drink less.
Add the crushed garlic along with a bit of salt and pepper, and if you have a grinder with salt, pepper, fennel seed and chilli, this is nice to use here. I also added some lavender salt, because I’ll do that at the slightest opportunity – lavender really likes eggplant.
While your eggplants are cooking, chop your peeled tomatoes – I quarter mine, then halve or quarter the quarters. Once the eggplant is looking nice and goldenly luscious, add the tinned and fresh tomatoes, and reduce the heat a little. Leave everything to bubble and cook down a bit – I used this time to start making a cake, actually, so let’s say ten to fifteen minutes during which you should probably lurk in the kitchen to keep an eye on things and give them a stir occasionally, but don’t actually need to hover over the stove.
Chop up your mint. And if you wanted to add a little Italian parsley or basil too, that wouldn’t hurt. But mint is great on its own, so maybe stick with that first time around.
When you are about ready to eat, stir in the yoghurt and the mint and serve. You don’t want the yoghurt to cook, really, so do this at the last minute.
OK, this is by no means low fat, but do we honestly care about that? I thought not. It is, however, vegetarian, gluten-free, low-GI, nut-free and egg-free, so hooray for us! I think the low fructose gang will need to give this one a miss – if I recall correctly, all the nightshades are choc-full of fructose, so we can’t de-fructose this without making it a totally different recipe.
If you are vegan or avoiding dairy, this is pretty nice pre-yoghurt, too, but honestly, at that point, why not go with ratatouille? Last I checked, you couldn’t get a plain (unsweetened) soy yoghurt in Australia, so I think you might be out of luck on this one – if any of the US folk try this with soy yoghurt, I’d love to hear how it works.
(I have to say, this dish is an awfully good argument in favour of dairy, though)
This time last year…