This dish is another Berta favourite and came about when experimenting with dishes for a honey sagra - we needed a tasty antipasti and discovered that adding spices to the honey gave it an extra savoury element allowing it to work so well with the earthiness of eggplant. A little salty and sweet matched with crisp and deep fried is a perfect way to whet the appetite for the start of the meal and even better as a snack with a refreshing beverage.
- 4 medium Japanese eggplant, sliced lengthways into 1 cm slices
- 2 tsp rosemary
For the batter
- 150 g chickpea flour
- 150 g cornflour
- 5 g salt
- 400 ml cold sparkling water (approximately)
- a little extra seasoned chickpea flour for dusting
For the spiced honey
- 100 ml honey
- 30 ml water
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 piece lemon peel
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.
To make the batter, sift the chick pea flour, cornflour and salt into a mixing bowl and then slowly whisk in the water making sure you don’t get a lumpy batter. Let the batter rest in the fridge while you prepare your other ingredients. (Batter can be made up to four hours in advanced and kept in the fridge).
In a small saucepan add the honey, water spices and peel. Bring it to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Let it sit until it cools to room temperature, allowing all the flavours to infuse. At this stage you can strain the honey into a jar but if you don’t mind a few stray herbs, I’d let them sit in the honey.
Use a large heavy based saucepan and add enough oil to come up about 6 cm. This step of course does depend on how big your saucepan is, you need an acceptable amount of space and oil so all your ingredients have ample room to float around and get crispy. You also need to make you’re your pot isn’t too full otherwise you could have messy and dangerous over flowing issues. Either heat oil to 180°C using a thermometer, or simply heat until when you flick a little of the batter into the oil it sizzles and rises to the top straight away.
Pull the batter out of the fridge, give it a little whisk and have a look at its thickness. You want it to be nice and runny with a little bit of body. Feel free to add a little extra water if you think it needs it.
Dust the eggplant slices with flour and then, one by one, dip each slice into the batter, pull out and give a little shake so you the coating isn’t too thick before gently lowering into the oil. Give it a little jiggle so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and fry for a minute or two. Turn the slices over to fry the other side and cook for another minute. Remove the eggplant and allow to drain on your rack.
Repeat until all the slices are done at which stage you can throw in the rosemary, fry it for a minute or two before removing and draining on some paper towel.
To serve, individually season each eggplant slice with a good amount of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, arrange them nicely on a platter, sprinkle over the rosemary and give the whole thing a good drizzle of the spiced honey.
• If you are frying in batches and want everything to be ready at the same time, a good way to do it is have a cake rack sitting over a tray. Once each batch of frying is done, put your ingredient on the rack and leave it in a warm spot. This will stop it going soggy.
Photographs by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd. Crystals supplied by Collier’s Crystals Blackheath.