I’m a big fan of eggplant – grew up with eggplant parmigiana, a traditional italian layered eggplant and tomato dish to die for. I’m always looking at incorporating this humble vegetable in my food and this dish is a real beauty! Eggplant is used extensively across the board in mediterranean cusine. This dish combines some Italian and middle eastern culinary traditions with the use of basil, garlic and pomegranate giving it a fresh, summery flavour.
Eggplant or aubergine as some call it, has many health benefits including its potential as an excellent brain food due to a phytonutrient found in the purple skin called nasunin. It packs a antioxidant punch which can provide protection against oxidative stress from exposure to the elements, as well as from infection by bacteria. If you have a mental block about them, free your mind and give them another go. The Japanese make a delicious sweet dish using eggplant that could be a good place to start.
Pomegranates were revered by the ancient Egyptians and they buried them with their dead, for they believes the fruit gave their people eternal life. The Persian folklore suggests that Eve was in fact eating a pomegranate and not an apple in the Garden of Eden. The mythology goes on and it’s no wonder, pomegranates are amazing. Not used so much in Australian cuisine but things are starting to change, with more and more restaurants using this luscious seed to enhance the flavours of their food. I think some people find it hard to know how to open and use the fruit but here I show it how and its not too difficult.
Ingredients Serves 4
500 g organic chicken breast
2 tblsp coconut oil
3 medium to large eggplants
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 pomegranate, seeded
1 tbspn pomagranate molasses
bunch of basil
handful of pinenuts, roasted
sea salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups plain greek yoghurt
3 tbsp etra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Step 1: Start off by marinading the chicken. It can be prepared the night before or just a few hours before cooking. Combine the marinade ingredients and mix well. Put half of yoghurt maranade in a cup and cover with cling wrap put in fridge to use later as a finishing sauce. Cut up your chicken, you can cut into small strips like in a stir fry or as small bite size chunks. Place ckicken in a bowl and add other half of marinade. Cover with cling wrap and also put in fridge.
Step 2: Preheat oven 200C. Cut up your eggplants. Slice down the middle long ways and then slice each half again in thirds and then cut into cubes around 2 cms squares. Place the eggplant pieces in oven tray and liberally coat with olive oil. Sprinkled with a good amount of salt ( this helps remove the bitterness some find in the taste) Place in oven and cook for 30 – 45 minutes or until ready.
Step 3: Roast your pine nuts on a frypan. No need to add oil, just keep an eye out so they don’t burn. Should take a couple of minutes. Chop basil leaves roughly and get pomegranate ready. Set up a bowl of water and cut your pomegranate in half. Place in the water and with your hands remove the pink seeds. Its much easier doing it this way than trying to remove out of water. The white casing that cover the seeds break off and float in water making the seeds move accessible. Once the seeds are removed, place in a small bowl and add the pomegranate molasses. Set aside.
Step 4: Once eggplant is cooked, heat a frypan and add the coconut oil. Add the yoghurt coated chicken pieces one by one to the frypan and cook until slightly golden. Once ready, combine ingredients to finish dish.
Step 5: In a large bowl combine egglant, pine nuts, pomegranate seed mixture, and basil leaves. Toss. Serve on plates. Top with chicken pieces and finally drizzled the extra half of yoghurt mixture, cracked pepper and sea salt. Serve.
This dish can be eating hot or cold as a salad. delicious either way! Also if you’re a vegetarian, it works well with tofu or tempeh. It is a yummy combination of flavours that work so well together. Hope you enjoy it!