We have a large crop of aubergines\eggplants in the garden. Both the traditional purple and the creamy white variety. It is this latter variety which gave us the name 'eggplant' as the berries, technically they are berries, resemble eggs.
If the aubergines are younger and fresh they will have fewer seeds and be less bitter. If not they will need to be peeled and salted to draw out some of the bittter juices.
The alcohol used is not critical, but flavour is good, so Grappa, Marc, a plum brandy or an eau de vie would be perfect; blackcurrant vodka is another possibility.
A persillade - or gremolata with the addition of lemon zest - is an excellent way to lift a dish just before serving. We add a persillade to a pan-fried potato dish, one of Misse's crowd pleasers, and gremolata is sublime when added to braised lamb. Persillade\Gremolata is not cooked, but is warmed by the surrounding ingredients.
- 4 medium sized aubergines\eggplants
- 16 oven-dried plum quarters or 4 fresh plums, quartered
- 60ml\2fl oz\¼ cup Grapppa or plum brandy (see Tips above)
Persillade or Gremolata
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Handful of parsley leaves
- Zest of ½ a lemon (for gremolata)
Tools of the Trade
- Heavy casserole dish or high sided frying pan, I use a large Le Creuset
- Blender of food processor for the persillade\gremolata (optional)
If the aubergines\eggplants are not shiny and firm, see both varieties captured on this page, peel them, cut them in half lengthwise and place in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle both sides with salt and let them sit for 30 minutes to draw out the bitter juices. Rinse the salt off and pat them dry with paper towel.
Cut the aubergines\eggplants into equal size pieces, roughly 2.5cm\1 inch cubes.
Heat the pan until it is fiercely hot. Add enough of the cubes to cover the bottom of the pan and dry fry, keeping the cubes moving or they will stick to the pan. When they just begin to caramelise, you will recognise a sweetness emerging from the pan, remove and do the next batch. Repeat until all of the cubes are done.
When the last batch is complete add all the aubergine\eggplant back into the hot pan and stir until they are all re-heated.
Warm the alcohol in a shallow pan and then, using a match, light it. Add the lighted alcohol to the aubergines and shake the pan, but do not stir until the flames have gone. Use extreme caution when adding the lighted alcohol to the pan.
Reduce the heat under the pan, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, then cover and cook for 8-10 minutes. The cubes will start to collapse but should still have texture. Add the plum quarters and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
For the persillade or gremolata
If making by hand finely chop the garlic and the parsley leaves. Greate the lemon zest and mix all three ingredients in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
If you are using a food processor or blender, place the garlic, parsley, lemon zest and olive oil in the bowl and process for 5-10 seconds; we want visible leaves, not mush.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the perillade or gremolata and stir well. Serve with a little extra parsley and olive oil drizzled over each plate.
This dish has an Asian vibe, so half a star anise and a large pinch of szechuan pepper would be a welcome addition. Add them just after the flames have died down.