Newsletter 26: Aubergines

www.tisjir.com                                                                    4th August 2011                                               newsletter 

 

AUBERGINE / BRUNGIEL

Aubergines can be bought all year round but they are at their best, not to mention cheapest, from July to September. To prepare, wash the skin and trim off the stalk. Slice or cut the flesh into chunks just before cooking as it discolours quickly.

This humble plant has played a major part in many popular regional cuisines throughout the world - in French ratatouille, the Lebanese baba ganoush, the Greek moussaka, the Italian parmigiana, the caponata in sicily and the brungiel mimli in Malta.

The slightly bland flavour of the aubergine makes it the perfect blank slate to which rich and aromatic spices and herbs can be added. In India, Iran and Afghanistan, aubergines are made into hot, spicy pickles to whet the appetite.

Aubergines not only block the formation of free radicals, they also reduce cholesterol levels. They are also a source of folic acid and potassium.

MOUSSAKA

• 3 large firm aubergines
• olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 1/2 a bulb of spring garlic, if you can get it, or 1 clove of regular garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
• 2 x 400g tins good-quality plum tomatoes or 1kg fresh ripe tomatoes
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• a little wine vinegar
• a large handful of fresh basil
• 4 large handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 handfuls of dried breadcrumbs
• a little fresh oregano, leaves chopped

optional:
• 1 x 150g ball of buffalo mozzarella

method
First things first: remove the stalks from the aubergines, slice them up into 1cm thick slices, and put to one side. Whether you’re using a griddle pan or a barbecue, get it really hot. Meanwhile, put 2 or 3 glugs of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and dried oregano and cook for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and the garlic has a tiny bit of colour. If you’re using tinned tomatoes, break them up, and if you’re using fresh tomatoes (which will obviously taste sweeter and more delicious, if they’re in season), very quickly prick each one and put them into a big pan of boiling water for 40 seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of cold water for 30 seconds, then remove the skins, carefully squeeze out the pips and cut up the flesh. Add the tomato flesh or tinned tomatoes to the onion, garlic and oregano. Give the mixture a good stir, then put a lid on the pan and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill the aubergines on both sides until lightly charred – you may have to do them in batches, as they probably won’t all fit into your griddle pan in one go. As each batch is finished, remove them to a tray and carry on grilling the rest until they’re all nicely done. When the tomato sauce is reduced and sweet, season it carefully with salt, pepper and a tiny swig of wine vinegar, and add the basil. You can leave the sauce chunky or you can purée it.

Get yourself an earthenware type dish (25 x 12–15cm). Put in a small layer of tomato sauce, then a thin scattering of Parmesan, followed by a single layer of aubergines. Repeat these layers until you’ve used all the ingredients up, finishing with a little sauce and another good sprinkling of Parmesan. I like to toss the breadcrumbs in olive oil with a little freshly chopped oregano and sprinkle them on top of the Parmesan. Sometimes the dish is served with torn-up mozzarella on top, which is nice too.

Place the dish in the oven and bake at 190°C/375°F/gas 5 for half an hour until golden, crisp and bubbly. It’s best eaten straight away, but it can also be served cold. You can use the same method substituting courgettes or fennel for the aubergines – both are delicious. But do try making it with aubergines – you’ll love it!

MOUSSAKA

 

3 brungiel

Zejt taz-zebbuga

Basla mqaxxra u mqatta fin

2 sinniet term imqatta fin

Kuccarina oregano

800g tadam (2 bottijiet kbar)

Bzar u melh

6 imgharef gobon mahkuk

4 imgharef hobz imfarrak

Qatta l-brungiel slices. Go tagen aqli il-basal u t-tewm mal-oregano fiz-zejt ghall 10 minuti sakemm il-basal jirtab.  Zid iz-zewg bottijiet tat-tadam.  Ghatti u sajjar ghal 15 –il minuta.

Ixwi il-brungiel miz-zewg nahat. 

Go dixx itfa ftit miz-zalza tat-tadam, ftit gobon mahkuk u saff wiehed ta’ brungiel.  Kompli sejjer hekk sakemm tuza l-ingredjenti kola u spicca bil-parmiggan fil-wicc, u l-frak tal-hobz u roxx ftit zejt taz-zebbuga.

Poggi fil-forn u ahmi ghal nofs sija 190°C/375°F/gas 5.  L-ahjar li sservi mal-ewwel.