Slightly Japanese in style, this dish highlights eggplant’s subtle flavour with charry smokiness and some sharp vinegar. The sesame gives crunch at the end but also adds a creaminess from the tahini. This should be served barely warm, perfect for a summer starter or side dish.
- 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthways
- 40 ml cider vinegar
- 2 tsp raw sugar
- 30 ml olive oil
- 10 ml tamari
- 50 g mascarpone
- 20 g tahini
- 4 Japanese eggplant, approximately 120 g each
- 1 tbsp black and white sesame seeds, toasted
- river salt and white pepper, to season
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place garlic slices in a small saucepan and cover with a few cups of cold water. Heat until it just begins to boil then strain out the garlic and run it under cold water. Repeat with another batch of cold water. Place drained garlic slices into a small mixing bowl and set aside.
In another small saucepan, heat the vinegar and sugar until it comes to a boil. Pour mixture over the garlic. Set aside to cool.
Once cool, add a pinch of salt, the olive oil and tamari, give it a little whisk to combine and taste for seasoning – it should be quite sharp and vinegary. Set aside.
Use a spatula to combine the mascarpone and tahini, and set aside. Add a little water if it’s too thick.
The eggplants are best charred over an open flame. The easiest way is to place them on a rack or straight onto your stovetop, turning them and moving them about so they char evenly, until the skin starts to break apart and the eggplant is nicely softened but still holding together. Too little and the skin will be hard to peel, too much and you’ll end up with a pile of soggy eggplant mush. As each eggplant is cooked, place it in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 5 minutes or so, to steam a little and make it easier to peel.
As soon as eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove the skin by placing each eggplant on a board and gently peeling away the skin while leaving the natural shape of the eggplant intact. Use paper towel to gently wipe away bits of skin, but don’t worry if there are charred bits left as they will add to the flavour. Leave the calyx intact, for presentation. As each eggplant is peeled, place on paper towel to soak up any remaining juices.
To assemble, spread the mascarpone mixture in a layer across the bottom of your serving dish. Cut each eggplant in half crossways and place on top, almost in a single layer, with a little overlap (but don’t pile it up). Mix dressing to combine and then spoon the garlic pieces over the eggplant before pouring on the rest of the dressing. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper before finishing with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
If you like, set aside for a good few hours before you wish to serve.
• This dish is also lovely plated individually as a starter.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Deborah Kaloper. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
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This recipe is part of The Seasonal Cook: Eggplant column.
View previous The Seasonal Cook columns and recipes.