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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Taste of Velvet - a Recipe for Stuffed Eggplant

Checking my little herb garden this afternoon, I discovered that the small pot of thyme is sprouting two new seedlings below the original stalks that have since curled outward and bent to the side.  This thyme has been quite lush for several weeks now, but I have yet to decide what to do with these beautiful leaves that grow like asters.  As I mulled over their minty and nutty scents, I scoured my vegetable pantry when the shiny purple of eggplants jumped right at me.

What could be more homey and Filipino than Rellenong Talong or Stuffed Eggplant?  If you check out the many articles or cookbooks on Filipino dishes, there is always one about this staple.  It is also a dish that's a standard offering in any carinderia or cafeteria, be it on any sidewalk or wet market eatery or even a hole-in-the-wall place.   In other words, it's a cheap dish - easy to prepare; easy on the budget. 

Thus, this recipe is a generic one.  I don't think there can be any other way of doing it, except maybe substitute one or two ingredients, which I did.  The usual recipe would use minced or ground pork to stuff the eggplant, but I used ground bangus meat or milkfish - a healthier alternative.  Of course, the thyme leaves have a special place here.  It seasoned the eggs (rather than salt) that served as a shawl to each eggplant, giving off the aroma of freshness.  Kain na!

The Recipe

4 eggplants (skin should be firm and shiny)
200 grams (about 1 cup) minced milkfish meat (such as
                    Seaking brand)
1 small white onion, minced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/8 cup minced carrots (optional)
4 eggs, beaten and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves
some flour for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil for sauteing, and additional for shallow frying
fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

Grill eggplants over open flame of stove until fragrant or about to char.  Turn them each side for even cooking.  Set aside.

Once cooled, open eggplants with fork and fan out flesh without removing the head of each.  Set on a plate.

Heat cooking oil in a pan and saute white onion until fragrant.  Add garlic and saute for another minute before putting in the minced milkfish, followed by the minced carrots, if using.  Cook meat until opaque in color then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to another plate.

Dip eggplant in beaten egg and thyme, fill fanned area with minced milkfish then sprinkle flour all over to make the meat stick to the eggplant.  Fry in cooking oil.  Turn the eggplant to cook the other side, making sure that both sides are browned.  Transfer to a plate, garnish with additional thyme leaves, and serve with banana ketchup as condiment.

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