I’m going to tell it like it is. I haven’t always been the biggest fan of the humble eggplant. I didn’t eat it much growing up and when I did I have memories of it being too tough or super mushy and flavorless. Rest assured, my love for the vegetable has grown since a visit to Japan- they certainly knew how to treat the vegetable! It was often dressed in the most amazing sticky sauces and sautéed until it was so soft it would just melt in your mouth. Eggplant has a lovely delicate flavour and a fantastic creamy texture, however it truly sings when you team it with other flavours. It needs the help and support from other ingredients to make it the great tasting vegetable it has always dreamt to be… oh the possibilities!
So not only is the eggplant a great platform to build on for any dish, it’s good for you too. It is very high in fiber and is mineral rich, boasting large quantities of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and calcium. Eggplant is also ridiculously low in calories, and I find it both filling and satisfying. So now, what to do with this miracle vegetable?!
As eggplant needs quite a bold friend, this recipe calls for a punchy miso dressing. Miso is a paste made from fermented soy beans, rice and barley and its most common use is to add to boiling water to make a delicious traditional Japanese soup. It is salty, tangy and has a rich robust flavor. For this recipe I use shiro miso (white miso) as it is rich and the sweetest tasting miso you can get. It is available at any Asian grocer and is sold as a paste in a tub. Forget the powdered stuff!
INGREDIENTS (eggplants & dressing)
4 small or 2 large eggplants
2 tbs miso paste
2 tbs soy or tamari
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs agave nectar
1 tbs olive oil
juice of half a lemon
splash rice wine vinegar, or white or red wine vinegar
I team the miso eggplant with a black rice salad. This makes for the most delicious complete meal. For the salad you will need-
1 cup uncooked black rice, or brown if you can’t get a hold of black
1 large handful of coriander
1 punnet of small grape or cherry tomatoes
1 green chilli
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds to finish
HOW IT’S DONE
To begin, make sure you have the oven on nice and hot. I put my fan-forced oven on at 200 degrees celsius. Mix all of the ingredients for the miso dressing together well. Cut the eggplants in half, then score the flesh in a cross hatched pattern like you would the cheek of mango. Place the cut eggplant skin side down on a baking tray and generously spoon the dressing over the surface of the eggplant. Keep a little dressing aside to spoon on after they’re cooked too. Bake in the oven for 45 mins – 1 hour. I often check on them to see how they are going during this time, they should turn a dark golden colour and the eggplant should be soft to touch in the middle with the skin dark and crispy.
While the eggplants are in the oven, get the salad going by boiling up the rice. I just LOVE black rice, it has a firm nutty texture and looks divine when combined with other salad-y ingredients. Yes I know, I like it because it looks good but it IS also packed with loads of vitamins, in particular vitamin E and is high in antioxidants - more than blueberries actually! Black rice is available at Asian grocers, I have found it in supermarkets as well so do keep an eye out for it. Brown rice would suffice if you can’t get a hold of black.
I boil black rice just like you do pasta, in a pot of rapidly boiling water with a pinch of salt for around half an hour or until the rice is nice and plump but still retains a firm bite. Once cooked, strain the rice and rinse under cool water. Finely slice the chilli and shallots, cut the tomatoes in half, tear the coriander and toss all ingredients together. Dress with the lemon juice, olive oil and sesame oil.
By the time you have done this, the eggplants should be done. Take them out of the oven and give them a little brush over with the miso dressing. It adds a lovely shine! Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the eggplants and salad, serve together and enjoy! This will feed 2-4 people depending on how hungry you are.
Photography by Phu Tang