I love eggplant in all its glorious guises. In Asian style stir fries, baked or grilled with toppings and fillings, Moroccan tagines, Middle Eastern dips, barbecued, in Moussaka and in one of my favourites discoveries of the year in Bali, thin slices dipped in batter and fried to crispy puffs served with caramelised onions and chillies and ketchup manis.
I’ve tried to recreate that dish a couple of times but to no avail so it remains a fond taste memory and is high on the list if I am back in Bali in the future. So, I have been delighted with Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’. More a cookbook of vegetable dishes than a vegetarian cookbook, it has a whole section dedicated to eggplants (as we know them in Australia) called, ‘The Mighty Aubergine’.
Many of the recipes use the startlingly titled ‘burnt aubergine’ which is actually just an eggplant that has been roasted over flames or a BBQ or at a pinch, over the gas ring or under the grill. All the recipes look great but the Aubergine Croquettes caught my eye straight away. Crunchy batons with their creamy, smoky centre. There are a few steps in this recipe but it’s easy, peasy so why not have a go? Great to prepare in advance for the festive cocktail season. Have them resting in the fridge and fry when guests arrive.
Go to the notes at the end for a cheat on how to make sure you have the burnt eggplant on hand when you need it. This is very much a ‘make it by feel’ recipe as it depends on the size of the eggplants and potatoes, how fresh your breadcrumbs are etc.
- 4 – 5 x medium eggplants (aubergine)
- 250g floury (old) potatoes
- 150g feta cheese, crumbled
- 20g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 x large egg, beaten
- Approx 200g breadcrumbs (homemade or panko)
- Salt & pepper to season
- Olive oil for frying
- Place whole eggplants on hot coals to roast. As you probably won’t have hot coals to hand, placing them on a BBQ grill is a good option. Of course, a wood fire or BBQ is best, to impart the desired smoky flavour but make do with what you have.*
- Cook eggplants, turning regularly to ensure that they are being cooked all the way through and to ensure they do not ‘catch on fire’.
- The eggplants will start to collapse as the interior softens. It depends on your cooking technique but it will take at least 30 minutes.
- Once eggplants can be handled, split down the middle and scoop out the flesh or peel the skin off. Avoid including any burned skin in the mix as this will be bitter (although a small amount is inevitable).
- Chop the eggplant with a knife into a rough pulp.
- Set aside to cool and drain in a colander for at least 1/2 hr. There should be approximately 500g of eggplant cooked flesh.
- Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain, break up the potatoes with a fork, into a rough mash. Set aside to cool.
- Once eggplant and potato has cooled to room temperature, add crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, seasoning and egg. Mix.
- Add half (approx 100g) of the breadcrumbs and mix again. The mixture should be soft rather than stiff.
- Divide mixture into 8 and roll into rough balls.
- Take a ball of aubergine croquette filling and gently roll on work surface into a sausage approximately 2.5cm thick.
- Spread remaining breadcrumbs on the work surface and roll ‘sausage’ in breadcrumbs.
- Place on tray lined with foil or baking paper. Repeat with remaining balls.
- Place aubergine croquette ‘sausages’ in fridge for at least 1 hour to rest. When you’re ready to cook, chop the length into thirds or quarters.
- Pour oil 1.5cm deep into a heavy based frying pan and heat.
- Place aubergine croquettes in heated oil and gently shallow fry, turning regularly until well browned on all sides. Do not over crowd the pan or have the oil too hot as the croquettes will brown too quickly but the filling may not have heated. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Drain on paper towel for a few minutes whilst you fry any other batches you may have.
- Serve hot with a dipping sauce (aioli is nice) and or a squeeze of lemon.
– *Sometimes a BBQ is just not available or practical. You can cook the eggplant over a gas flame by piercing the eggplant in a few spots and holding it over the flame on a fork, turning regularly until cooked through although this will take some time. The other choice is to pierce the eggplant, microwave for 1 – 2 minutes then place under your oven grill, turning regularly.
– Don’t be tempted to omit the salt, even though you have added the cheeses. I didn’t add the salt to the first batch but the plain eggplant and potato needs the seasoning.
– I freeze anything, including this burnt eggplant. I simply follow the instructions for the eggplant and then freeze it in a takeaway container. When I’m ready to use it, I defrost it in the colander and ensure I press out any excess water.