In cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi, his love of eggplant is apparent with entire book chapters devoted to the vegetable, and burning it is a technique that features prominently in many recipes. Dishes that use this method have received such positive reviews from fellow IHCC members, I knew I had to try it so Burnt Eggplant and Mograbieh Soup from the book Jerusalem was on the menu.
Before proceeding to the soup, a tomato broth made with vegetable (or chicken) stock and tomatoes, and flavoured with onion, garlic and toasted cumin, the eggplants in the recipe needed to be dealt with. Three of the five were to be burned. Instructions are given for two methods, stove top over an open flame, or under the oven broiler. I used neither, putting the eggplants close to the bottom element in the oven while it preheated to 250C for a bread baking session and leaving them in while the bread baked. In just over an hour, the eggplants were completely burnt with the peel black and paper-like, breaking off in shards. Success!
The soft flesh of the burnt eggplants was added to the tomato broth base and the soup was puréed. The sweetness of the eggplant took the edge off the sharpness of the tomatoes and added a subtle smoky flavour, and the added lemon juice and sugar enhanced the sweet-sour notes in the soup. I could have eaten it just as it was, but there was more to prepare.
The two remaining eggplants were to be cubed and fried in a fair bit of oil. Knowing just how much oil this sponge-like vegetable is capable of absorbing, I stir fried the cubes in small batches on high heat instead, using a non-stick pan and minimal oil - less than 2 tbsp in all; they were golden brown and cooked through in just minutes.
Topped with the stir-fried eggplant cubes, cooked Israeli couscous, (instead of mograbieh), and fresh dill, this hearty soup was fantastic. And burnt eggplant? It was as delicious as everyone has said!
This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme is New to Me. See what other ingredients, cuisines or techniques IHCC members have discovered cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi.