February 01, 2013

Meltingly soft eggplants with greek yogurt and pomegranate

I never been into eggplants. They were either flavourless or either too oily to me depending on the way they had been cooked.
No, eggplants were not my thing until I gave them another chance two years ago in Istanbul. I tried the Imam Bayildi, braised eggplants stuffed with onion and tomatoes and, served at room temperature. Oh what a fabulous discovery ! The eggplants were just melting in the mouth…
I attended a cooking class to learn how to prepare them. It did not work so well at home but the eggplants definitively came out of my « ugly-taste » foods list !

Not long ago I came across the cookbook « Plenty : Vibrant vegetable recipes from London’s Ottolenghi » by Yotam Ottolenghi. The book cover is featuring such appealing eggplants with buttermilk sauce and pomegranate seeds… I had to try this out !

The original recipe involves as well a condiment call Za’atar, very popular in the Middle East. The lady who was putting the spices and herbs on display could not help me to find this condiment so she call her supervisor.
Originating from Liban, her supervisor was very happy to share with me his recipe.

So here is his recipe for the Za’atar :

  • 100g ground dry Oregano,
  • 21/2 teaspoon Sumac,
  • 50g Sesame slightly toasted on a dry pan and,
  • 1 tablespoon salt.

I know this is a huge quantity of Za’atar for only two eggplants but think of many pita breads, seasoned with Za’atar and moistened with olive oil, you are going to enjoy !

Meltingly soft eggplants with greek yogurt and pomegranate
Serves 4 as a starter

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Eggplant with buttermilk sauce.

Ingredients :
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 75ml olive oil
  • Thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
  • Sea salt and black Pepper
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tablespoon Za’atar
Sauce :
  • 400g Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic clove, crushed
  • pinch of salt
Steps :
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways. Use a small sharp knife to make parallel incisions (horizontally and then vertically) in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin.
  3. Place the eggplant halves on a baking trail covered with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil until the flesh completely absorbs the oil.
  4. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some salt and peper.
  5. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. You may add extra oil if the flesh looks dry or cover if the flesh is getting too brown.
  6. Cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Be prepared, the secret to get the seeds is about to be revealed… Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating until the seeds start to come out and fall through your fingers in the bowl.
  7. Prepare the sauce : Whisk together all of the ingredients. Keep cold.
  8. To serve, spoon plenty of Greek yogurt sauce over the eggplant halves. Sprinkle Za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on the top. Garnish with the sprigs of thyme.

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