Written in her trademark engaging and knowledgeable style, Sally takes a fresh look at many of the more exciting ingredients available today in local grocery stores and supermarkets as well as providing a host of delicious recipes made with more familiar fare.
From fragrant Persian noodle rice to gingery tamarind eggplants, pink pickled turnips and rose petal jam, The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian is filled with aromatic herbs and spices, inspiring ideas and all the knowledge needed to cook wonderful vegetarian food from the Middle East and beyond.
Afghan Yogurt with Eggplants
The origin of the word burani is lost in the swirls of gastro-time, but it is popularly believed that it is named after one Pourandokht, the queen of Ctesiphon, in Mesopotamia. She was partial to yogurt, and so her chefs created a range of dishes comprising yogurt.
In Iran the ingredients of borani are well blended and served cold: in Afghanistan, they are layered while still warm, turning burani into a textured, creamy platter of delight. This is the most famous version.
SUPPER FOR 4
3 large eggplants, washed
canola oil, for frying*
1 large onion, chopped
4 green chilies, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 tomatoes, chopped (or use 1 large can)
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
For the yogurt:
scant 2 cups/16fl oz/450ml thick strained yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4–6 garlic cloves, minced (not pulling any punches here)
handful of fresh chopped mint (or 2 teaspoons dried mint)
salt and pepper
Purists would have you peel the eggplants. Not me. Simply remove the calyx and slice the vegetables into slices about ¼ in (6–7 mm) thick. Sprinkle salt over them, and leave to draw for at least 30 minutes, then rinse and wipe dry. Heat a slosh of oil in a deep frying pan (one with a lid is good) and sizzle the onion and chillies until the former is soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set to one side. Now add a bit more oil to the pan and fry the eggplant slices so that they are gently browned on both sides. Sprinkle them with the turmeric, and add the tomatoes and cilantro (retaining about a quarter of it for garnish), together with the cooked onion/chilli. Add a little water to the pan (so that the ingredients are more or less covered), place the lid on it (or improvise one), turn the heat right down, and leave to simmer for around 30 minutes (but keep an eye on the liquid level).
In the meantime, rustle up the “sauce.” Blend the yogurt and the lemon juice in a bowl, stir in the garlic and the mint, and season to taste. Chill well.
Time to assemble the dish. Check the seasoning of the eggplant concoction—you may need to add salt. Spoon half the yogurt across a decent-sized platter, spreading it to get good coverage. Then layer the eggplants on top, and follow that with the rest of the yogurt. Scatter the remaining cilantro over the top and serve immediately—even as you are arranging the hot and the cold elements, they will start to leach into each other. This is a treat best mopped up with warm naan bread, although you could eat it with rice. There won’t be any left over.
* I suggest using canola oil, though sunflower oil is more authentic because canola (or rapeseed) oil is one of the good guys in a world of general oleaginous badness: it’s got Omega 3 and 6, and the right proportion of saturated and unsaturated fats. As eggplants gobble up so much oil, it makes sense to use a good one.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Interlink Books.