I was first introduced to the humble eggplant or aubergine (chatzil in Hebrew) on one of my trips to Israel as a child but I really began to appreciate it when I was spending a year in Israel and added deep fried chunks of it, fairly liberally to my post pub shawarma. Due to it’s sponge like texture, the eggplant soaks up a lot of oil and it’s really unhealthy to eat it in this fashion but it remains one of my guilty pleasures to this day.
The longer that I’ve been in Israel, the more I have realised quite how versatile the eggplant can be. I use it as the basis of a number of dips, as an ingredient in salads, as a “meaty” vegetarian option on the grill and in lasagne, eggplant parm, antipasti….. I’ve even enjoyed an excellent, smoky eggplant soup at Ma’alot – a little gem with which you should really familiarise yourselves!
One of our very favourite things to do with eggplant is really simple and so delicious that you’ll find variations of it in many decent restaurants. Eggplant and techina are a pretty good marriage – the flavours complement each other well. Adding a little sweetness to techina works well as any halva fan will tell you and the best way to do it in the “land flowing with milk and honey” is date honey or silan (most likely what the bible meant as it’s far more common than bee honey as well as far cheaper!). A garnish or two and you have a delicious dish that looks great too whilst involving very little work – my favourite combination!
1 medium sized eggplant – choose one that feels fairly solid and has a shiny purpley-black skin
1 tbsp raw techina
1 tsp silan
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp flat leaved parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts
Option 1 – Prick the eggplant in several places and place on a baking sheet in a medium oven – bake until collapsing – approximately half an hour.
Option 2 – cook the eggplant over an open flame, ideally a wood or charcoal burning grill but a gas grill or range will do. This will give it a smoky flavour which I find delicious (but my wife dislikes so I use the first method which is also easier)
In the meantime, prepare your techina by adding the lemon juice and a sprinkle of cumin to the raw techina. Add water, stirring until you reach the consistency of a thick cream.
Toast pine nuts in a dry pan – keep an eye on them as you want them to brown and release their oils but not to burn – once they’ve hit the right colour stop the cooking process by tipping them onto a cool plate or piece of kitchen paper.
Leave the eggplant to cool then cut down the center
Drizzle techina over your eggplant halves.
Drizzle silan over the the techina – you can also create a patten on your serving plate if you want to show off…..
Garnish with finely chopped parsley and pine nuts.