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Eggplant Fries with Honey is a fairly common tapas in Spain. Nice crunchy eggplants sticks deep fried in olive oil and finished up with a sprinkle of salt and good quality honey.vegetarian spanish tapas eggplant honey

Eggplant fries with honey

Ever wondered about nice authentic vegetarian tapas ? This crunchy Eggplant topped with honey tapa is what you are looking for! Called Berenjena con miel in Spanish this tapas originates from the south of Spain although nowadays you’ll find it in about every tapas bar in Spain. It’s usually served with a nice honey or a darker molasse (cane syrup) and a nice sprinkle of salt. A great sweet and salty dish!

 

Golden rule of deep frying

deep frying olive oilKnowing the common eggplants contains lots of water which makes them often saggy once cooked, the only way to make them relatively firm and crisp is by coating them in a light flour and breadcrumb layer and fry them up at high temperature. An important element to deep fry successfully the eggplant is to assure yourself the oil is hot enough, this way it won’t get absorb the oil and get saggy. Also be careful not to add too many pieces at the same time you’ll end up cooling the olive oil and finish up with sad greasy and soft fries. So make sure to keep the temperature of the oil between 180-190°C (300-350f) this way the eggplant won’t absorb much oil and will just get the top layer of the fries crisp.

Oh! and if you are one of those sceptic about deep frying with olive oil, don’t be! Olive oil is one of the most stable and resistant to long cooking periods, it loses less volatile compounds than most oils and doesn’t alter the taste of anything like many believe. Without saying, it’s the base of Spanish gastronomy, it’s everywhere and they are second on the list of country where people live the longest… just saying. They fry and deep fry everything in olive oil in Spain so olive oil must not be that bad… As long as you don’t reach the smoke point over 190°C (350F) it’s perfectly safe if not better than any other oil.

Eggplant fries with honey

Bitterness

Eggplant fries with honeySome people found eggplant have a bitter taste but personally I’ve never had a problem with bitterness. This unpleasant taste is mostly happening when the eggplant is too mature. Do not worry… there is a way to fix this problem. Soaking them in a salty bath for 30 minutes before you cook this purple vegetable is the way to eliminate the unwelcomed bitterness. This step is also giving an extra taste to the eggplant but if you do not feel like waiting for an extra 30 minutes, just omit this step and go right to the deep frying.

 

Honey or Cane syrup

This tapa in Spain is often served with a darker thicker syrup made out of cane sugar (molasse), it’s not an actual honey but they still call the dish “eggplants with honey”… But for this particular recipe I brought out my top notch honey and drizzled it over the eggplants with a sprinkle of salt. There is nothing like a nice sweet and salty combination!

So let’s get those fries going!


Eggplant Fries with Honey

Makes 4-6 tapas portions | Preparation: 45 minutes | Difficulty: easy

Eggplant fries with honeyIngredients
  • 2 big eggplants
  • 3 tbsp of flour
  • 3 tbsp of breadcrumbs
  • honey (as much as you like)
  • olive oil
  • salt (fleur de sel)
Directions
  1. Start by cutting the eggplant into thick (1cm) sticks (with the skin) and let it soak in salty (2tbsp salt) water for 30 minutes (add a plate over to immerse them completely)
  2. Heat up a good amount of olive oil to soak the fries completely in a deep enough pan and heat it up to 180°C to 190°C (350°F to 370°F) degrees
  3. Pat dry the eggplants sticks with a paper towel and add to a bowl
  4. Add the flour and bread crumbs to the bowl containing the fries, cover and shake the fries to cover them up with the mix
  5. Add a fry to test the heat, it need to make lots of bubble right away or check the temperature with a thermometer
  6. Add a few eggplant at the time not to cool down the oil, (don’t over fill) and let it fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until golden and crisp
  7. Take out the fries with a slotted spoon, sprinkle a little (fleur de sel) salt on them and reserve on a paper towel while you cook an other batch
  8. Just before serving, add a good quality honey or molasses on top.

 

Enjoy!

IMG_1681

Mini ratatouille

 

Ratatouille is my favorite vegetarian dish, plus it’s so easy, fast, healthy and tasty. This version is a mini version, a tower of all the ingredients topped with a Spanish style salsa verde. There are so many version of ratatouille out there, some are with capers and a touch of vinegar (caponata) or spiced up a bit with espelette pepper in the Basque region, etc. I like my ratatouille with a touch of goat cheese in it but you could replace it by a simple fresh mozzarella. This 18 century born dish is usually served as a side dish, made in a casserole but this version is reversed, the ratatouille is the heart of the meal here. An elegant individual version resulting into a beautiful tower of colors and flavors. If you prefer making a full casserole ratatouille, check my recipe here, it’s another easy, tasty recipe made with some extra kalamata olives.

miniratatouillepin

The layers

Mini ratatouilleThe way I’ve disposed the layers is important here, you want the tomato to be high enough in the tower to lose most of its juice on the underneath layers, which will absorb it. Also, the goat cheese should be on top of the tomato layer to make it melt through the tomato holes and not on the sides or the ratatouille. To make it hold better, I’ve inserted a toothpick through the first 4 layers just to prevent the tower from collapsing. For the tomato choice, choose a firm interior and large tomato for this dish. All the ingredients will cook to perfection, in the same time, same temperature, so no worries here. Like in any types of ratatouille, the unforgivable ingredients is: the olive oil. Before making the mini ratatouilles, make sure you give a light coat of olive oil and salt to every layer + a final drizzle on top before coccion. Every layers are about 1 cm thick, and finally you’ll start building the tower in this order; an eggplant, zucchini (3x), side of bell pepper, eggplant, tomato, goat cheese, eggplant.

The final touch

Mini ratatouilleTo finish the dish with a nice punch, I’ve drizzled the ratatouille with a powerful Spanish style salsa verde. Made out of garlic, flat leave parsley, salt and olive oil. So simple and yet it gives the dish a whole new dimension those few drops. For the salsa verde, I’ve used a small blender, but a mortar would do too, and make sure not to over blend, then it cooks the parsley and changes the color. After all, it’s called salsa verde, not salsa brownish verde… This recipe is such an easy, healthy and pretty one to make, perfect for meatless mondays or vegetarians. Accompany with rice, couscous or pasta.

So let’s make those mini ratatouilles!

 


Mini ratatouilles

Makes 4 portions | Difficulty: terribly easy | Preparation: 10 minutes | Coccion: 30 minutes

Ingredients
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 tomato, large and firm
  • fresh goat cheese 
  • 1 bell pepper (squarish formed to have 4 flat pieces)
Spanish salsa verde
  • 100ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • about 25 leaves of parsley
  • salt
Directions

Bring the oven to 180°C (350F)

  1. Cut in 1 cm thick slices the eggplant, zucchini, tomato, goat cheese (1/2 cm) and drizzle some olive oil and salt on the slices and mix
  2. Cut the bell pepper flat sides to make 4 plane rectangles and drizzle with olive oil and salt
  3. On a greased or covered baking sheet, make the towers by stacking the eggplant, then 3 zucchinis, pepper, eggplant, tomato, goat cheese and finish with the eggplant
  4. Add a toothpick through the ratatouille tower
  5. Drizzle a bit more olive oil and salt
  6. Cook at 180°C (350F) for 30 minutes
  7. During that time, in a blender or mortar, mix all the salsa verde ingredients and blend
  8. Serve the mini ratatouilles without the toothpick, add a cherry tomato or a nice kalamata olive on top and a drizzle of Spanish salsa verde.

 

Enjoy!

Mini ratatouille

Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)“Coca” is a Catalan, or northern Mediterranean coast of Spain, traditional dish. In other words, it’s a Catalan Pizza made with a touch of olive oil resulting into a crusty soft bread sometimes thick and other times thin and crunchy. They do all kind of “Cocas” in Catalonia, from sweet to savoury, minis to long and large, thin to thick and most of the time into rectangular form. One of my favorite is the “Coca de recapte” which means “leftovers coca” and mainly it is an eggplant, onion and pepper in escalivada (smoky, roasted veggie) but it could also contain meat, etc. because its name says it… it’s “a leftovers” coca. This version of coca, I’ve posted here, is a similar one although I’ve added a touch of goat cheese (my leftovers of the day) and let go of the whole roasting part. Cutting the cooking time by 1 hour. You could also add anchovy to this coca which is common to see in Spain. Surprisingly, they do not use much cheese on their “Catalan pizza”, most are with a meaty touch, like lard, rabbit or sausages or seafood like sardines, anchovies, tuna, etc. and veggies.cocapin

Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)If you ever come visit Barcelona, you’ll see those cocas in many bakeries around town but my own personal favorite was the one in Bar del Pla, in the Born district. This small and charming Tapas Bar has some crunchy sardine version irresistibly addictive and also, try the “calamari in its ink croquetas”, they are fabulous. A great tapas bar if you ever visit. Okay… let’s go back to our coca… so if you buy it on the street in a bakery, the chances are they will serve it cold, that’s because they eat their coca this way in Catalonia. That’s simply how they do it but you could always ask for “calentar” warm up the piece if it bothers you.

It’s common to see Cocas with names of religious connotation, for example; the San Joan Coca (St-John the Baptist), the Easter Coca, the Christmas Coca or even the 3 three kings Coca. It seems like there is one for every occasion. So let’s make this an occasion and create this coca.

 


Eggplant, pepper and goat cheese Coca (Catalan Pizza)

Ingredients
Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)The dough
  • 400g of flour
  • 200ml of warm water
  • 9g of powder yeast or 2 tbsp of fresh yeast
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 of sugar
The toppings
  • 1/4 of an Eggplant finely sliced (3mm thick)
  • 1 Tomato finely slices (2mm thick)
  • 1/4 of a Red bell pepper sliced
  • Goat cheese to taste
  • Basil leaves (top in the end)
  • *optional anchovies
Directions

Preheat the oven at 180°C (350F)

  1. Add the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let it work its magic for 10 minutes
  2. Add the salt and olive oil to the flour and the yeast/water and mix
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes
  4. Leave the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic of towel near a warm place for an 30-1 hour.
  5. For the Coca base with the hand of a kitchen rolling pin
  6. Add to floured wood to slide onto the oven stone or add to a baking sheet on the baking tray
  7. Add the tomatoes, eggplant and pepper topped with goat cheese and a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper
  8. Cook about 35-40 minutes or until golden

Serve with a few fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!

Coca of eggplant, pepper and goat cheese (Catalan Pizza)

 Sichuan beef-mushroom stuffed eggplant

Spicy Sichuan beef-mushroom stuffed eggplant is a bite into a mildly hot and comforting meaty dish accompanied with an earthy Sichuan style sauce. This recipe is not a traditional Chinese recipe, although flavored with all the great Sichuan flavors, it’s a twist on my love for Sichuan flavors. A great dish if you feel like a rich and spicy meaty dinner with an oriental flare to it. The secret in this recipe lays in the fermented broad bean paste called Doubanjiang, more precisely Pixian Doubanjiang. This paste is a jewel from the famous Chinese region, it brings a rich, salty, spicy kick to the dish. Although, in our days, many household use a Doubanjiang made with mostly oil or fermented soya instead of Sichuan beef-mushroom stuffed eggplantbeans which result into a quite different result. So if you want to get your Sichuanese recipes taste like the real deal, take care to buy the authentic Pixian Doubanjiang at your favorite Asian market.sichuanpin

This Sichuanese paste is the core of the recipe, also present is the Shaoxing wine which gives a welcomed kick to any chinese food, a good substitute for this would be brandy or sherry. As for the mushrooms in this preparation the maitake mushrooms are used but it could easy be replaced by shiitakes or button mushrooms.

As for the plating in general, I suggest small eggplants, big ones would be for big appetites only. The stuffed eggplant is installed on a small bed of white rice to stabilize it on the plate. Also, the white rice will get infused with the Sichuan sauce as soon as you cut through it and let the sauce flow into it. Of course the recipe is suitable for low-carb diet or paleo diet simply eliminate the white rice. In the last step of the recipe, the roasting part in the oven, the Sichuanese sauce will, in part, get absorbed by the eggplant and give it a great punchy flavor.

So let’s make this Sichuanese stuffed eggplant!


Spicy Sichuan beef-mushroom stuffed eggplant

Makes 2 portions

IngredientIMG_5135s
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 300g of ground beef
  • 100g of mushroom finely chopped (shiitake, maitake or button mushrooms)
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 cm cube of ginger finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • Mushroom2 tbsp of spicy black bean paste (Doubanjiang)
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of chinese wine (Shaoxing)
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Cut the eggplant into 2 on the length, cut out the inside with a spoon
  2. Spray or brush lightly with oil (sunflower or neutral oil), salt and pepper
  3. Add the eggplant cut side down on a baking tray and cook at 180°C (350F) for 20 minutes
  4. During that time, cook, medium-high heat, in an oiled pan the onion and mushroom
  5. When soften, add the garlic, ginger and ground beef
  6. Cook until the meat is cooked, then add the bean paste, the chinese wine and the soy sauce and mix until the paste is well incorporated into the mix
  7. Let cook a minute or two to evaporate the alcohol from the chinese wine
  8. Stuffed the eggplants with the sichuan beef mix and cook at 180°C (350F) for an extra 5 minutes
  9. Serve

Enjoy!

Sichuan beef-mushroom stuffed eggplant

Sichuan eggplant dish
Chinese eggplant recipe

Chinese eggplant recipe is a delicious Sichuan’s stir fry dish, a sweet and sour dish with a note of spice in it. This version is vegetarian, usually made with minced pork, although this time, replaced with some fresh spring onions to give it a fresh, and crunchy bite.

The long asian eggplants have a firmer texture and bolder flavour in comparison with the western world “big eggplant”. They don’t lose their shape when cooking, resulting into a firmer bite than normally. Simply add a little cornstarch on them before cooking into the wok in order to make the skin slightly crunchier and the sauce thicker.

Szechuan eggplant
Asian Eggplants are long and firmer


This meal comes just like tapas, although main course size, in the middle of the table to share with other dishes. The secret in this recipe lays in the ingredients, which are all Sichuan’s, of course. You’ll probably need to stop at the asian market to find them all. Especially important is the Sichuan’s fermented bean paste (Doubanjiang) which is the highlight of this eggplant dish. 

So let’s stir fry that aromatic asian dish!


Szechuan eggplants

Portions: 2-4 persons / prep&cooking time: approx. 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 long asian eggplants cut into sticks of 3cm
  • 1 small onion finely sliced
  • 1-2 hot Thai red pepper finely chopped (1 mildly spicy, 2 spicy)
  • 3 tbsp of cornstarch (2 tbsp for the eggplants + 1 tbsp for the sauce)
  • 2 tbsp of peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tbsp black bean paste (Doubanjiang)
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 3 cm cube piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of dark chinese vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp of honey (or sugar)
  • 1 tbsp of chinese cooking wine (or sherry)
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp of chilli flakes paste or in oil

Directions

  1. Cut the eggplant into 3 cm long sticks and add to a plate with salty water and put weight on it for 15 minutes.
  2. Dry up with a paper towels the eggplants.
  3. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, chili paste, and 1 tbsp of cornstarch.
  4. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch and 1 tbsp of peanut oil on the eggplants and mix until well coated.
  5. In a wok, medium-high heat, cook the onion, ginger, garlic and eggplants for about 5 minutes until the eggplant is light brown on each sides.
  6. Add the black bean paste (Doubanjiang) and mix
  7. Add, finally, the predone sauce from step 3 to the wok, cook for a minute.
  8. Serve with a few finely chopped Thai peppers and spring onions.
chinese eggplant recipe

Enjoy!