This is a momentous day – after more than 2 years sporadic blogging – I finally include an aubergine recipe on The Noble Aubergine! Aubergines are not exactly in season in the UK right now, but my veg box delivery has started to include them, probably grown undercover for an early crop, so I’m going to write up one of my favourite aubergine recipes. I can’t take much credit for this, it’s an old recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen – one of her many beautifully hand written and illustrated cookery books that inspire my vegetarian diet regularly. I have tweaked it to change the proportions and make it dairy free, but the flavours are all there and it’s stunning.
My aubergine plants on the other hand are a few inches high now, and have just been transplanted into their pots and growbags to take advantage of the early summer sun. My blogging has fallen by the wayside a little to be replaced by huge activity in the garden. This is always the way; the winter months are filled with cooking and writing, and then the sun comes out and after a day’s digging and planting, I’m too exhausted to cook, photograph and write about my creations. The veggie patch and the greenhouse will not produce any leaves or roots or fruits for at least another month or so, but I hope to get back on the blogging wagon once I have gluts of produce I need to get creative with. This is hopefully my first sunny step back onto WordPress.
This particular recipe is dairy free, and uses optional eggs. You can completely leave the eggs out and the dish is still great, or maybe substitute the texture with some clever tofu / black salt invention.
This dish is Persian in origin, and takes advantage of a few spices and herbs I would never normally think to combine. In a local shop recently I found some Norfolk grown freeze dried dill (my fresh dill in the garden is not looking too healthy!) and with lots of organic local garlic and eggs from the back garden, this ingredients list has at least some East Anglian representation.
A couple of years ago the children turned their noses up at the middle eastern flavours in this dish, but after the recent roaring success of my authentic tagine, and their newly developed love of mild thai curry, I’m going to try them with it again. Generally my girls eat pretty much anything and are willing to try new flavours, but occasionally new combinations are just a bit to alien to be appreciated. I never give up though, tastebuds are changing all the time, and the most sneered at foods have gradually become firm favourites. I’ll involve them in the chopping and cooking… and no doubt they’ll be super keen to eat the creation
Serves 4 as a main meal, or 6 with other main dishes.
For the bulgar:
- 3 tbsp of olive oil or refined coconut oil (30p)
- 400-500g of aubergine – cut into 2cm cubes (£1.45)
- 1 large onion – finely diced (20p)
- 200g of mushrooms – sliced (£1.49)
- 6 cloves of garlic – finely chopped or crushed (25p)
- 2 tsp of ground cumin (40p)
- 2 tsp of salt
- 250g of bulgar (72p)
- 250ml cup of water
- 100g of raisins (53p)
- juice of 1/2 a lemon (25p)
- 1 tbsp of dried dill or 2 tbsp of fresh (32p)
For the topping:
- 4 eggs (£1.24)
- 300ml of unsweetened soya milk (24p)
- 40g of dairy free butter (8p)
- 40g of plain flour (6p)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp of sweet paprika (17p)
Heat the oil in a large oven proof pan (which has a lid) – I use a shallow 26cm cast iron pan. If you don’r have a pan like this, do the first part in a large frying pan or sauce pan and then transfer the mixture to a baking dish before you add the topping.
On a medium-high heat, fry the onion, aubergine, mushrooms, garlic, cumin and salt. The salt will draw the water out of the aubergine, causing it to go soft and tender. After 10 minutes turn the het down and add the bulgur, lemon juice, water and raisins. Put the lid on the pan and leave to simmer gently for another 10 minutes, until the aubergine is tender and the bulgar has swollen. While this is happening, you can get on with the topping.
First, put the 4 eggs on to boil. Place in a pan in cold water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 3 minutes. replace the hot water for cold and let the eggs sit in the water until you are ready to peel them.
In another medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk into a smooth paste and then add the milk bit by bit whisking as you go to create a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Peel and grate the boiled eggs into the sauce and stir through.
Pour the thick white sauce over the top of the bulgur and spread to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the top of the dish with paprika and then put in the oven for 40 minutes.
The finished dish should be golden on top and creamy just underneath the surface.
This can be served as a main meal with a wedge of lemon on the side and a green salad, or can be part of a larger spread with other vegetable side dishes. This also tastes great served warm as part of a buffet.
This dish, with it’s more luxurious ingredients, works out at £1.92 at organic supermarket prices. That’s for a generous portion eaten as a main meal. I can’t wait until my little plants in the greenhouse start blooming and then, with the eggs from my girls in the back garden, I can cut that price in half.