Sunday, July 3, 2011

Get me to the Greek!

Eggplant has been around for a long time - apparently it has been grown in various forms since pre-history and is a member of the nightshade family, closely related to the potato and the tomato. It is a technically a fruit and comes in a large variety of shapes, colours and sizes - black, purple, white and green or even lilac.They can be almost as big as your head, or as small as a baby pea. Eggplant will soak up any other flavours that you put with it, so it is great in curries, stews or coated in a marinade.

Eggplant is in season right now so they have the advantage of being inexpensive and also of a really great quality. Always buy eggplant that are firm and glossy - the skin should not be soft, dull or puckered. The green stem should be green and firm. The most common question about eggplant is - to salt? or not to salt? If I am using very young eggplant, or the long slender lebanese style eggplant, I don't bother. However larger eggplant (like the one I am using in today's recipe) benefit from being salted before cooking to remove any excess bitterness from the fruit. I have included instructions for this in my recipe.

Eggplant is very popular in Greek cuisine and this is where I got the inspiration for today's recipe - a hearty lamb and eggplant dish that is loaded with flavour - add olives and fetta and fresh herbs and you have something delicious that takes advantage of the wonderful eggplant that is in season right now. Serve it with crusty bread and a beautiful green salad and even those who aren't crazy about eggplantwill be coming back for seconds.

Lamb, Eggplant & Fetta Rolls

You will need: 2 large eggplant, salt, 500g minced lamb, 1 large chopped onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 tablespoons crumbled fetta cheese, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 tablespoon fresh mint, 1 egg, a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper, 3 cups nepolitana sauce (or passata), 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped deseeded Kalamata olives, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Method: Slice the eggplant into pieces about 1cm thick, lengthways. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Drain off all of the dark liquid and pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels.

Heat a pan or grill and brush it with olive oil. Cook the eggplant slices in batches until slightly browned on each side. Set aside.

In a frypan, add a splash of oil and the chopped onion and garlic. Cook on a medium heat until the onion is soft.

In a large bowl, combine the minced lamb,oregano, paprika, mint, egg, cayenne pepper, parsley. Mix well with your hands. Now add the cooked onion and the crumbled fetta cheese. Season with a little pepper and mix well.

To make the rolls, lay a slice of eggplant flat and place about a tablespoon full of the mince mixture in a sausage shape across the middle of the slice, one third of the way down. Roll up the eggplant to encase the mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Repeat until all of the rolls are completed.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Pour the nepolitana sauce (or passata) over the rolls and top with the chopped olives. Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and a salad, or rice.

Serves 4-6 People.


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