(Vegetarian) Eggplant Moussaka
NB: Description of and other uses for pomegranate molasses here: berry cakes, pistachio cakes, Tarte Tatin and salmon kebabs.
I made this a few weeks ago when I was trying out a few healthy/low-fat dishes from Nigella's How To Eat. I was looking for a lamb stew to cook for a meeting being held at my house, so I was flicking through the Cooking in Advance chapter and fell upon this. It's not moussaka as I've always had it: eggplant with minced lamb and creamy bechamel, but a vegetarian Lebanese version, like a ratatouille with pomegranate molasses. I love eggplant and I love the tart sweetness of pomegranate molasses (makes a wicked summer drink mixed with soda water), plus the whole recipe was vegetarian, which appealed to me: I could eat this on its own or as a side dish when I was craving meat (which is often! Sometimes I wonder if I'm more closely linked with the cavemen than other girls!).
It's dead easy to make, especially if you use tinned tomatoes, which I can always justify, especially when it's the middle of winter. The only thing is, the main aspect that piqued my interest in the recipe, the pomegranate molasses, was the bit I didn't like! The whole dish came out too sweet. I thought it was just me, because I'm not one for sweet-tasting savoury food or sweet & sour anything (chutney - bleah!) but a few others had the same thought: too sweet, almost like vegetable dessert. I had doubled the recipe, so used 3 tablespoons of the molasses. I'd recommend adding it in small quantities and tasting as you go. You can always add more, but taking it away was a challenge. I found that adding plain yoghurt or sour cream helped with flavour, and also with the slight acidity from the tomatoes. Maybe longer cooking was needed for that, but watch that your eggplant doesn't completely turn into mush.
If you have it, definitely add fresh coriander at the end. Great flavour.
So, taste and go carefully the first time you do it and I think you'll like it. It's certainly something useful to have in the fridge.
Read on for the recipe:
Adaped from Nada Saleh's "Fragrance of the Earth" via Nigella Lawson.
5 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 onions (about 250g), peeled and sliced thinly
10-12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole, or cut thickly
150g chick peas, soaked, rinsed, drained and precooked (tinned is fine for me!)
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
500g tomatoes, rinsed, peeled, seeded and quarted (or tinned!)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
parsley, coriander or mint.
-Trim the eggplants and peel "to look like Edwardian circus tents" - i.e. leaving lengthways stripes about 1 1/4 cm wide.
-In a large, wide pan heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat and saute the eggplant for a few minutes until lightly browned. Remove to a side dish lined with kitchen paper.
-To the empty pan add the remaining oil, onions and garlic and saute, stirring constantly, until pale and soft - about 5 minutes. You may need to add more oil.
-Add the chickpeas and stir occasionally for 5 minutes, then add the pomegranate molasses.
-Return the reserved eggplants to the pan and add the tomatoes, salt, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper then add the water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to moderately low. Cover and simmer for about an hour. If using a large, shallow pan they may be ready after 45 minutes.
-Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with chopped parsley, coriander or mint and a dollop of plain yoghurt.
Tagged with eggplant