I wrote this one down last night, quite late, after a marathon jam and paste session in the cookie house, so I was a bit kerfuddled and did not get to say this, so here I go.
If you are one of those people, and I am speaking to most people out there, who are about to say, oh no, I do not eat eggplant, then stop. Eggplant is possibly the most ill used vegetable on the planet. Prepared badly it would, and has, put many people off it for life. It is filled with an acrid bitterness, leaves a nasty flavour in your mouth, and it is very easy to to turn the texture into slime encased in leather. BUT, prepared properly, salted to remove the bitterness or baked whole to soften it, and paired carefully with complementary ingredients and not allowed to act like a giant oil sponge, it is delicately flavoured, silky textured and behaves as a flavour carrier and enhancer for other ingredients.
From a nutrition point of view, eggplant has good amounts of Chlorine and Sulfur, both of which are excellent digestive aids and body cleansers, immunity boosting phytosterols and antioxidants, good amounts of manganese, folate, potassium and vitamins C and K (though as Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin we are going to destroy that with our cooking) and fibre. So if we can hide all that nutrition in a dish that is wonderfully delicious and even had son Jon (carnivore by choice), nodding his head and saying, “I thought you put eggplant in this, can’t taste it”, why would you not?
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program -
As you all know I have trundled back to school to study nutrition so that I can better look after myself and mine. It seems to me to be a field of study fraught with argument, but one thing pops up again and again and again in the diets that stand the test of time. Eat more vegetables. Eat more vegetables. Eat more vegetables.
So I was turning over some old favourites in my mind and I got an inkling for a vegan bolognese. It has turned out super yummy. Want to see?
Please excuse my very pale pasta, this is a sweet potato noodle, which is very nice and does not give me asthma or arthritis and is a close to pasta as I get these days, unless I make a gnocchi, which I am too tired to do today. Anyway, this has turned out very, very well, nicer, I would dare to say, than a regular bolognese, which actually, I will show you how to do too, I will put it on my list.
1 stick celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 a small leek
6 cloves garlic
2 tins diced tomato
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed marjoram, thyme and rosemary
12 chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
To begin, slice your eggplant and zucchini quite finely, lay it out in layers in a large dish, salt each layer, don’t be too shy with the salt, we are using it to draw the water out of the veg and the bitterness out of the eggplant. Leave for at least half an hour, rinse off the salt thoroughly and drain in a colander.
Dice the onion, carrot and celery very finely, you can whack it in the food processor if you like, but don’t purée it, you want dice of about 2 - 3 mm square.
Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a large frying pan, heat to a medium heat, add the onion mix, we want some nice colour in this, so move it around from time to time, don’t let it burn, but some nice tinges of brown will add flavour. While you are sauteeing that, dice the eggplant and zucchini as finely as you can, again, not purée if you are using the food processor, a nice fine dice, same as the other veg.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and tip the eggplant and zucchini in with your onion mix. Dice the leek and tip that in too, yes, you do need to add the leek, it gives us a similar melting quality that meat fat has and, along with the olives, lifts this dish from the ordinary to the exceptional. Keep it all moving around, any nice bits of flavour that stick to the bottom of the pan, scrape them up into the mix and stir them in, do that for a good ten minutes until everything is cooked and soft and there is a bit of colour coming through.
Crush the garlic and add that, stir in the olives and the herbs, let it cook for another minute, then add the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and a cup of water, turn the heat down and simmer until very thick and saucy, season to taste.
Serve with whatever pasta you can eat, top with cheese if you like, as you can see I have topped mine with chopped pistachios.
This has surprised me more than it should have. It is very, very moorish. I might see if I can bottle some with my ball mason jars for the shelf for days when I don’t want to cook. I don’t believe that even the most dedicated carnivore would turn their nose up at this.
Eat more veg. Eat more veg. Eat more veg. No probs if it tastes like this!