Middle Eastern Barbecued Eggplant with Tahini Dressing and Pomegranates

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Our oven broke last week and it forced me to get a bit experimental in my cooking. I’m confident in my normal domain – the oven and stove. But when you take the oven out of the equation, your choice become considerably more limited. Sure, you can get creative and there are countless dishes you can make that require solely a stove-top. But when you get home from work the first dish that creeps into your head will undoubtedly be pasta. And after a while, or my third night consecutively chowing down on the delicious carb-loaded aforementioned meal, I had reached my limit. I needed something baked. Then I remembered we had a barbeque. That foreign object that sits outside in the garden. To me, the barbeque is the domain of steaks and sausages, not the domain of slow roasted meat, or caramelized vegetables. However, I decided that I needed to break-free from my comforting inside-oven domain and brave the grey, rainy weather to use the barbeque. Under the careful prowess of my boyfriend who helped me turn it on (yes, you read the correctly) I started to get acquainted with the big, scary barbeque. And I can tell any of you other non-barbecue-users that it’s not as a scary as you may think.

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My barbeque has a temperature dial, which helped when trying to figure out how long and what temperature to cook things at. However, a barbeque cannot be treated in the same way as an oven as the heat is not regulated in the same way and may not cook things as evenly as you might be used to. Do not despair. Just keep an eye on what your cooking, move it around to a different part of the barbeque and play with the temperature dials a bit until you get a feel for it. You will get there, I promise and the results will be worth it!

While the barbeque does produce a decidedly more smoky flavoured result, this can be absolutely perfect for some recipes. This recipe for middle eastern braised eggplant being one of them. I have made this dish before in the oven but I was pleasantly surprised that the barbeque produced a far more flavorsome meal. The smoky, charred flavour that finds its way into the eggplant means that the eggplant is soft and tender inside, with a crisp, crunchy skin. Pair this with a tangy, creamy tahini dressing and a fresh hit of pomegranates and I promise you’ll be grateful that you ventured outside.

Middle Eastern Barbequed Eggplant with Tahini Dressing and Pomegranates

Serves 6 as side

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized eggplants, sliced into 1cm thick discs
  • ½ bunch chopped coriander
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds

Marinade

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp dukkah
  • Sea salt to season

Dressing

  • 2 tbs tahini
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs water
  • Juice from 1½ lemons
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • Sea salt to season

 

Method: 

  • Preheat the barbeque to 200°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl.
  • Place the eggplant discs flat on the baking trays and spread out evenly.
  • Using a pastry brush, dip it into the marinade and baste each disc with the marinade. Repeat on all the discs, turning each over to coat each side.
  • Put the eggplant into the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until soft in the middle and crispy on the outside. Be sure to turn the eggplant discs over so they cook evenly about half way through cooking.
  • While the eggplant is cooking you can make the dressing. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. The tahini will absorb a lot of the liquid so if it looks a little thick, add a bit more oil, lemon juice or water and taste.
  • Remove the eggplant from the barbeque and place onto a serving tray. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with pomegranates and top with coriander. Serve warm.

 

 

Middle Eastern Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

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This weekend I road tripped up to Byron Bay for the Splendour in the Grass music festival. It was a weekend of fun, friends, sunshine and a lot of mud. The music was fantastic and it was hard to keep from smiling. The mix included all that is cool from pop, rock, hip-hop and indie. I got to see some of my favourite bands such as, The National, Mumford and Sons, MS MR and Boy & Bear, and they did not disappoint.

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Because we were camping that meant we had to eat either the chips and lollies we’d stocked up on from the supermarket or what was on offer from the food stands, and after five days of festival food my body was craving something light and fresh. That is not to say the food at Splendour was bad, in fact the burgers, fries, tacos, gourmet hot dogs and pasta were all delicious but not exactly great for the figure.

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Feeling bloated and heavy I decided to make my go-to salad. It’s got everyone’s favourite superfood quinoa, a nutty grain-like seed that absorbs other flavours superbly. But the real superstar here is the pomegranate. Opening up one of these beauties is like discovering a treasure chest full of gloriously rich-coloured jewels. The little ruby red beads burst in your mouth, punching with a simultaneously sweet and tangy flavour. Combine this with a sprinkling of dukkah, an Egyptian nut, seed and spice mix, and you have a flavour combination that really will delight the senses. I know that’s cheesy but sometimes there’s no way around it. Sorry.

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The added crunch that comes from the fresh, crispy veggies adds a great textural element to the dish and the big, zesty flavours from the chilli and lemon vinaigrette don’t leave your taste buds lacking in the flavour department. A few more meals like this and hopefully my Splendour belly will subside a little.

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Middle Eastern Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

Serves 6 as a main or 10 as a side

Salad:

  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 bunch coriander chopped
  • 1 bunch mint chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley chopped
  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers, quartered lengthways and diced
  • 1 red capsicum diced
  • 2 celery sticks finely sliced
  • 6 sprigs shallot finely sliced
  • Seeds of 2 pomegranates
  • 3 tbs dukkah*
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Salt to season

Dressing:

  • Juice of two lemons
  • Equal amounts of olive oil

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in a salad bowl and season generously with salt.
  2. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a jar and shake until mixed together.
  3. Pour over the salad and toss through.

*Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mix that is available at most grocers and delicatessens.