Monday, September 01, 2008

Stuffed aubergines

I got the idea to stuff some aubergines from looking through one of my favourite cookbooks, Ghillie Basan's Classic Turkish Cookery. But what I cooked bore little relationship to her recipe.

First, Basan tells you to use torpedo-shaped aubergines, which of course I had little chance of buying. Next, she recommends deep frying them in sunflower oil before stuffing them. That no doubt produces a delicious result, but quite an oily one. Instead, I baked my aubergines, for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C, having first pricked them with the tip of a knife to stop them exploding.

Basan's stuffing is raw lamb mince, mixed with tomatoes, garlic, onion and spices, and manipulated by hand until it is pasty. This mixture would be ideal as a stuffing, because easy to manipulate. Nevertheless, I cooked the simple stew from this moussaka recipe -- but without the onion and with the addition of a couple of tbsps of pine nuts that I had toasted in a dry pan over a gentle heat.

After 30 minutes in the oven, the aubergines were softened enough, but not tender. I slit them from the stem ends to the bases, cutting through most of the way. I grated over a little salt, and drizzled about a tsp of olive oil into each. Then I put them into a roasting tin and shoved the stew into the cavities, packing it in as snugly as I could.

I had four aubergines, and soon realised that my stew (consisting of 400g of mince) would overflow. So I cut a red pepper in half, deseeded it, and stuffed that too.

I wanted the stuffed vegetables to steam. I poured a layer of boiling water round them, covered the tin with foil, and put it into the oven at gas mark 4/180C for an hour.

We ate the stuffed vegetables at room temperature. The only flaw was that the aubergines were a little watery. I cannot see an easy way to solve that problem: one could cut them in half and salt them for the initial baking, but then one would not be able to reassemble them as a package for the stuffing. Still, this was a great dish for a warm, late summer evening.

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