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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, August 24, 2006

(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:

Eggplant Moussaka
Adaped from Nada Saleh's "Fragrance of the Earth" via Nigella Lawson.

500g eggplants
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
200ml water
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.
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  • This looks interesting. I have never used pomegranate molasses before or even seen it- where did you get it from? Do you think I could use sugar or the normal type of molasses instead?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/24/2006 04:28:00 pm  

  • Anon - Hi. No, pomegranate molasses has a very distinct sour lemony taste. It's just called molasses due to its colour and thickness; it's really a concentrated fruit syrup. The closest thing to substitue would be lemon juice with some sugar in it, I guess.
    We get ours from a continental deli at the local market (they sell nuts and groceries etc) and it's really cheap: about $3 for the bottle. I've also seen it in the international aisle of big supermarkets.

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/24/2006 04:31:00 pm  

  • I am definitely noting that for dinner one night!

    By Blogger Belinda, at 8/24/2006 08:21:00 pm  

  • I was looking for a reason to buy the beautiful purple eggplants at the local Chinese grocery store. Guess I just found one! :D This looks absolutely delicious!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/24/2006 08:46:00 pm  

  • Eggplants are one of those things I've never gotten around to liking. I've tried them a few times, but am not fond of the texture at all. All the other ingredients in this sound so good though, and it looks like the eggplant is cut into reasonably small pieces, so maybe... the eggplants are so beautiful this time of year too.

    By Blogger Cathy, at 8/25/2006 12:18:00 pm  

  • Yumm, I love both chickpeas and eggplants, this looks and sounds super tasty!! Recipe copied to try!

    By Blogger Ana, at 8/25/2006 12:48:00 pm  

  • I'm being naughty and posting this on a later post to what it's actually relevant to, but forgive me!

    I'm one of those 'lurkers', but had to pop up to say I was so inspired by your kitkat adventure in Japan that I did exactly the same thing when I went there a few months ago! I was obsessed with matcha and azuki flavour so I got azuki flavour, the fruit parfait flavour, a packet of mini matcha flavour, and one that is based on the japanese dessert of shaved ice, green tea syrup and azuki. I have to admit, i haven't tried them yet because I brought so much food back with me, and I'm saving those till last!

    However, more to the point, have you tried the new Austrlian kitkat chunky flavours? Honeycomb and cookie dough? The cookie dough one is, in all honestly, just incredibly sweet, I think....!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/30/2006 11:00:00 am  

  • Hannah - Your kit kats sound so much cooler than the ones I found! I'm very envious, and I'd love to know what you thought of them.
    Of the new range in Australia I've only tried the caramel one, which I found WAY too sweet. That tends to be the way with our chocolate bars over here, plus, it's just not as exotic buying weird kit kat flavours from the local 7/11. I want to go back to Japan!

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/30/2006 04:45:00 pm  

  • Wow, I totally love this blog. It’s so clean, professional looking, and I love the recipes to be found here! You totally have a new reader!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/20/2006 12:31:00 am  

  • I made something similar a couple of years ago, love eggplant and moussaka, but this recipe is different so I will sure try it, thanks.

    By Anonymous Bröst, at 5/04/2009 11:42:00 pm  

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