I came late to the Jerusalem cookbook, but as always in times of crises, sometimes inspiration finds you. At the end of a week dominated by headlines, I found an eggplant recipe that spoke to the interwoven food histories that exist in the Middle East. While faiths are varied, the food provides cross-cultural links that inspire celebration and conviviality rather than division.
In ancient Levantine, Asian, and European cuisines, eggplant is simply eaten fried. When an eggplant is broiled or roasted over a flame, the charred and blackened skin can be scraped away to reveal flesh that is both moist and sweet. In many Middle Eastern recipes, the resulting flesh is pureed further to make a variety of snack (meze). Keeping some of the burnt skin in the salad mentioned below adds a smoky depth. With minor additions, the salad can be adapted for all cuisines.
(Adapted from: Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi)
Eggplant – 1, cubed and baked
Tomatoes – 1, chopped and cubed
Cucumber – ½ chopped and cubed
Spring onions or shallot – 1, chopped finely
Fresh Parsley – 1½ tbsp
Lemon – juice from ½ lemon
Naan or Pita – 1
Yogurt – 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper – to taste
Hard boiled Egg – 1, sliced into half
Olive oil – ½ tbsp
Mango pickle – 1 tbsp
Zhoug – 1 tbsp (optional)
- Mix the cooked eggplant, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and egg.
- Warm the naan or pita and lay it across the serving plate.
- Spread yogurt across the pita bread. (The spread could also be hummus or tahini.)
- Place the salad mixture over the naan or pita bread.
- Drizzle olive oil on top.
- Serve with mango pickle or zhoug.
Note: Zhoug is a condiment that combines fresh cilantro and parsley, green chilies, and dried aromatic spices of cardamom, cumin, and cloves. These ingredients, along with oil, sugar, salt and garlic are blended in a food processor to make a robust paste.
Burnt Eggplant With Garlic, Lemon & Pomegranate Seeds
Eggplant – 2
Garlic cloves – 2, minced
Lemon – 1, zest and juice
Flat leaf parsley – 3 stalks, remove leaves and chop roughly
Mint leaves – 3 stalks, remove the leaves and chop roughly
Pomegranate seeds – 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper – to taste
- Broil the eggplant under a broiler for about 1 hour, turning it every 15-20 minutes.
- When all the sides are charred, remove and cool. The skin comes away easily. Using a fork, scrape the flesh away in a smooth top-to-bottom motion. Let the flesh drain in a colander to remove all the liquid.
- Meanwhile, mix all of the remaining ingredients, keeping aside a few pomegranate seeds.Add these ingredients to the eggplant.
- When ready to serve, heap the eggplant mixture onto a plate.
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds.