Several weeks ago we shared a favourite childhood meal, rabbit stew. We knew that this recipe would be met with some strong reactions; eating rabbit is clearly not for everyone. Although we totally understand and respect this, we felt that it was a shame that not everyone would taste the wonderful flavours of this stew…rabbit aside. Then we remembered that sometimes our parents would replace the rabbit with eggplant! And we laughed, because we realized that this too could be met with some strong reactions; eggplant is not the most popular ingredient out there.
Part of the group of plants called nightshades, eggplants, or if you’re feeling fancy (or British), aubergines, are similar to tomatoes in their nutritional profile, but have a much longer shelf life. This is perfect for those times that you pick one up at the grocery store, well-intentioned and feeling worldly, and then realize that you have no idea what to do with it. Eggplants are used often in Mediterranean cooking and we’ve done our best, through previous posts, to bring eggplant-dislikers (haters is such a strong word) over to the eggplant-loving side. We’ve tempted you with fried eggplant chips, a medley of eggplant, zucchini and fried potatoes, and even an eggplant dip. In case these recipes were not impressive enough, we think that we’ve hit the jackpot with this eggplant stew. So go ahead, search in the recesses of your fridge for the eggplant you bought weeks ago, when you were dreaming of a Greek island vacation. This meal won’t replace the warm sand and gorgeous beaches, but it sure does taste good.
This is a great recipe to have on hand during periods of Orthodox lent; it contains no meat, dairy or eggs. It’s also a perfect, and we think original, option for anyone who is looking to introduce vegan meals into their diet. Despite being low in calories (1 cup of uncooked eggplant has about 20 calories), the eggplant is substantial enough to be quite filling and satisfying.
Eggplants are very watery. In order to make the best of this fruit (yes! it’s a fruit!), it is usually a good idea to salt it and allow it to drain in order to remove the excess water. The drier the eggplant, the better. So, if time is on your side you can allow the eggplant to drain for more than the 30 minutes recommended in the recipe.
Our parents use small yellow onions for this meal. They tend to be sweeter and less strongly flavoured than the regular, medium sized yellow onions. If all you can find are the more standard medium sized onions, use those, but cut them in half before adding them to the pot.
As with most recipes which use tomato sauce, our parents use their homemade sauce for this stifado; you can find the recipe here. If you don’t have homemade sauce, and have no plans for making some, you can substitute a good quality jarred tomato sauce instead.
Mia Kouppa: Eggplant Stew
- One large eggplant, cut into large chunks (unpeeled)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 24 small to medium-small yellow onions (total of about 880 grams of onion)
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup (250 ml) tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
- 3/4 tablespoon salt
- 100 ml olive oil
- 200 ml water
- 1 whole cinnamon stick, cut in half
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) whole allspice
- Place the eggplant chunks in a colander and sprinkle them with about 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside for about 30 minutes.
- Peel the onions; the ones which are very small, leave whole. For those which are slightly larger, score them in half, but not all the way. They should remain as one whole onion. Set aside.
- After the eggplant has drained, use paper towels to press out as much water as is remaining in the eggplant.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large pot set over medium heat and cook half the eggplant chunks, turning them carefully until browned on all sides. This should take about 5 – 8 minutes. Remove from the pot, add 2 more teaspoons of oil and finish cooking the rest of the eggplant. Remove from the pot when browned on sides.
- To this pot add the onions, potatoes, and garlic. Continue to add all of the other ingredients except the eggplant. Shake the pot well to distribute the liquid. Cover, and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook, covered for about 30 minutes. Add the eggplant and stir in into the pot. At this point, lift the lid enough so that some steam escapes, but that most of the pot is still covered by the lid. Shake your pot carefully ever 15 minutes or so, to prevent sticking. If it appears too dry, you can add 1/4 cup of water. Cook for an additional 30 – 45 minutes, until the vegetables are all cooked and the eggplant is done to your preference.
- Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
- Serve the eggplant with the onions, potatoes and the cooking liquid. Enjoy.