ABOUT THIS RECIPE
This recipe came to me one morning, and I felt compelled to try it out. It was a winner. I love Mediterranean food with all its wonderful tomato and herb sauces, and I also love Moroccan food – the tagines, etc – and I thought the use of fruit would give just the right touch to what I had in mind. I complimented this dish by using pecan nuts and basmati rice, both of which marry well, together with some interesting spices in the filling – curry, cinnamon etc. Then, in my mind’s eye I saw a deep red, flavoursome sauce that the parcels would sit in – a smoked tomato sauce to add moisture, with herbs to embellish the flavours. Introducing flavours and a stuffing to dance, rather than fight together. The result – an interesting fusion, and a treat to the palette.
I highly recommend serving the parcels with crunchy roast potatoes, and a green salad of your choice.
Serves 2 to 3 portions.
- 1 large, firm aubergine / eggplant (be sure that the flesh inside is white and not brown)
- 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup of pecan nuts, chopped
- ½ tsp curry powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cardamon powder
- a pinch of chilli powder – or more if you like it hot
- ½ tsp ground cumin powder
- 1½ cups of cooked basmati rice (I used white basmati, as the brown is a little heavy for this dish)
- 9 stewed apricots, cut in halves
- salt to taste
- chopped parsley or mint for garnishing (optional)
Cut aubergine/eggplant lengthways into relatively thin slices, and fry each slice in a non-stick pan until it slightly browns on both sides – a skillet pan gives them a lovely design. Remove and allow to cool before stuffing and rolling.
Meanwhile, start to prepare the rice filling by pouring a little olive oil in a non-stick pan and frying the chopped pecans for a minute or so. Add the onion and garlic, and stir around the pan until the onions cook and the pecans have begun to brown (that’s when they give off their magic flavour). When this is done, add the remaining ingredients, except for the rice and apricots. Allow these to cook, and mix well for around 10 minutes or so on a low heat.
If the mixture is a little dry, do not hesitate to add a little more oil. Finally add the rice and apricots, stir well, and add your salt and pepper. Take off the heat, and allow a few minutes for your rice mixture to cool in readiness for stuffing the aubergines. You may wish to make your smoked tomato sauce in the meantime.
INGREDIENTS FOR SMOKED TOMATO SAUCE
- 2-3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400 grams)
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 tsp margarine
- ½ tsp brown sugar or cane sugar
- salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan for a few moments. Then add the chopped garlic and stir – don’t allow it to brown. Add the tomato puree, cinnamon stick and the smoked paprika, taking care to mix well for a minute or two. Now add the remaining ingredients, cover and lower the heat, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes until the mixture is thick and aromatic. After a few minutes, place the sauce in a suitable oven dish in readiness for the parcels.
METHOD FOR STUFFING AUBERGINES/EGGPLANTS (final stage prior to baking the completed dish)
Take one slice of the cooked aubergine/eggplant at a time, and place on a chopping board, facing lengthways away from you. Spoon a portion of your rice mixture on to the surface of the slice (around 2 teaspoons or so, depending on the size of your slice), about ½ inch from the end closest to you. Carefully roll the slice away from you, until it is fully rolled, and the stuffing is sealed inside. Ensure it is lying with the final overlap upwards, and if needs be, stick a toothpick through the top for further security (you can then remove it prior to serving if you wish). Continue the same process with the remaining slices – the technique should come easier to you the more you do.
When you have stuffed each aubergine/eggplant into a packed parcel, place one by one in your chosen oven dish, where you will have already placed your smoked tomato sauce. Cover the dish with foil, and allow to cook gently in the oven on a medium heat for half an hour or so. After 20 minutes, remove the foil. Garnish with parsley, and serve with crispy potatoes and salad as I recommended – or any other way that takes your fancy. Please indulge now.
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