The combination of nightshade ingredients in this dish shows how sophisticated peasant food can be, with its signature island flavours of sweet and savoury potato, floral honey, bitter and creamy eggplant and a touch of cinnamon.
- 2 eggplants (aubergines), cut lengthways into 5-mm (¼-in) thick slices
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 750 g (1 lb 11 oz) large desiree potatoes, peeled
- 60 g (2 oz) butter
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ tbsp pure cream
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
- 2 thyme sprigs, leaves chopped super fine
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- 80 g (2½ oz) slivered almonds, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp honey
- 5 purslane or ice plant sprigs, leaves picked
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.
Chilling time: 20 minutes
- Place the eggplant in a large colander with a bowl underneath and sprinkle over the fine sea salt. Set aside for 6–8 minutes to draw out the eggplant’s bitter juices. Rinse off the salt and squeeze the slices dry with a clean tea towel, removing as much moisture as possible.
- Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for 25–30 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and push the potato through a ricer, mouli or fine sieve into a large bowl. While the potato is still warm, add half the butter, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the cream, cinnamon and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and mix well, beating with a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) fan-forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Heat a small drizzle of the remaining oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat. Working in batches, cook the eggplant slices, drizzling with oil each time, for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Once cool enough to handle, place the eggplant on a chopping board and spoon 1½ tablespoons of the mashed potato mixture in a thick horizontal line across each eggplant slice. Roll up from the round bottom end of the eggplant and set aside on the prepared tray, seam side down.
- Melt the remaining butter and use it to baste the tops of the canelones. Sprinkle over the almonds and bake for 12–15 minutes, until warmed through and the almonds are golden brown.
- Transfer the canelones to a large serving platter and drizzle with honey just before serving. Sprinkle over a very fine amount of cinnamon and season with salt and pepper. Finish with the purslane leaves and serve.
Recipes and images from Islas: Food of the Spanish Islands by Emma Warren, Smith Street Books, RRP $49.99