The Lebanese palate loves a tart tang and these eggplants tickle the taste buds beautifully. During the long hot summer months, baby eggplants are boiled until just tender, stuffed with garlic, walnuts, and chili—a perfect combination of flavor and texture—and then stored in oil for at least a few weeks. Kitchen alchemy occurs and the eggplants start to ferment in the oil, taking on a slightly sour flavor that is utterly addictive and unlike anything I’ve tasted before. You can serve them whole as part of ameze, chop them into salads or, if you’re feeling particularly wicked, turn them into the ultimate mid-morning snack by serving them on pita bread spread with Rose Petal Labna.
Serves 8 as part of a meze
- 8–12 baby eggplants (about 1-1/4pounds)
- plenty of sea salt, for pickling
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 red chili, roughly chopped
- 2-1/4ounces (scant 3/4cup) walnuts
- scant 2/3 cup olive oil
- Cut a small (1/2–3/4-inch) slit lengthwise into the side of each eggplant and then put them into a pan of boiling water. They will float, so you need to put a bowl or plate over the top to keep them submerged in the water. Cook for 20–25 minutes until tender. Drain through a colander and leave for 5 minutes to cool down.
- Once cool enough to touch, rub a little salt into the slits you made in the eggplants and place them back in the colander in a layer, slit side down. Put a bowl on top to gently weigh them down. Leave for 2 hours so that the excess moisture drains out of the eggplants.
- Meanwhile, put the garlic and chili into a mini food processor and blend until fine. Add the walnuts and whizz up until fairly fine. Stuff a small amount of the mixture into the slit of each eggplant and place in a 22-ounce sterilized jar—you want them all to fit snugly. Pour over enough oil to just cover everything; you might need a little more or less than the amount given, depending on the size of your eggplants. Seal and leave in a cool dry place for at least two weeks. Once ready, they’ll keep for a few weeks.
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Cover Courtesy of Kyle Books
Reprinted with permission from Saffron in the Souks by John Gregory-Smith and published by Kyle Books.