Perhaps it's the indecisive Libran in me but I enjoy my food best when there is a melange of flavours competing for my attention in the same meal. This is why I love antipasto platters, mezze plates and going to Yum Cha.
It is a bonus then when a number of distinctive flavours sing so harmoniously together in the one dish, making every bite magic!
This is one such dish. I came across a recipe for Tunisian Eggplant one time but ended up with a completely different recipe using what ingredients I had at home. This is the result. Well, I should really say this is one version of the result. I have made this dish so many times, using different mixes of spices and I kept getting asked for the recipe. I have alternately used garam masala, chermoula and sometimes just cinnamon and cardamom- depending on what I have handy. Each time, the dish comes out tasty and I think this is all thanks to the humble eggplant. I just love this vegetable for being so accommodating of flavours one chooses to infuse it with. Whether it's just the delicate aroma of olive oil or a hodgepodge of robust spices, eggplants take them equally well.
Eggplants (or aubergines, as they are known in Europe) are from the same family as tomatoes and peppers. Though most of us are most familiar with the glossy, teardrop-shaped, purple-black variety, eggplants also come in striped and white varieties, and in various shapes like the lady's fingers or the perfectly round ones used in Thai cuisine. Eggplants are not particularly high in vitamins but rich in minerals like folate, potassium and also contain compounds which are good antioxidants. The plant has been cultivated for centuries and the fruit (which they are technically) are widely used in Indian and Meditterenean cooking.
This eggplant dish is quite rich in flavours but the freshness is lifted by the addition of mint. This is one useful and popular herb when you think of the products it lends it's flavour to- from toothpaste to room fresheners to mint jellies. Originally used for medicinal purposes, a potted mint is a handy plant to have on the kitchen window sill. It can be used infused in teas, in salads, stir-fries and much more.
I am submitting this recipe as my contribution for the second year anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging. This fun and informative event has reached yet another milestone and it's such fun to be participating. Don't forget to check out the round-up at Kalyn's Kitchen for fabulous recipes and congratulate Kalyn for starting a one-of-a-kind food blogging event.
*My favourite way to eat this dish is by mopping up the eggplant and juices with cut-up Lebanese or pita bread.
Spicy Eggplant Relish
1 large eggplant (around 400g)
1 red capsicum (sweet pepper, approx 250g)
1 large red onion (approx 250g), cut into crescents
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp dry chilli flakes (optional)
1tsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) root
1/2c chopped mint leaves
1/2 c chopped coriander leaves
150mL white vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper
sesame seeds for garnishing
3 Tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 200dec C. Cut eggplant length ways, keeping the stem intact. Halve the red capsicum. Put the the eggplant and capsicum halves on an oiled baking tray, cut-side down. Bake for around 25mins or until soft. When cooled down, scrape the flesh from the eggplant halves. Discard the skin and chop the flesh into very small pieces. Peel the skin off the capsicums and also chop into small pieces.
In a saucepan, heat up the oil and add the onions. Stir around until very very soft, then add the spices (coriander, cumin,cinnamon and chilli flakes). Stir around, making sure they do not stick to the pan. Then add the coriander root, ginger and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the eggplant and capsicum. Stir around to coat with the oil and spices. Add the vinegar and sugar. Let simmer on low heat for around 30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the pan. If the mix seems too dry, add around 100mL of water.
Add half of the coriander leaves and half of the mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.
Let cool (I like to serve this at room temperature). Just before serving, mix in the rest of the coriander leaves and mint leaves, reserving some to garnish on top. Sprinkle on some sesame seeds.