Thursday 26 February 2015

Eggplant and Porcini meatless 'meatballs' with tomato sauce.

The recipe I made last Tuesday is probably the evil twin sister of the previous recipe I posted. Lets just say there is more to it than throw it all together and bung it in the oven. This one is a labor of love.

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

Sometimes I really enjoy pottering around in the kitchen. Stirring a sauce here, doing a little frying there, while something is cooking away in the oven. It's like when you cook risotto, there is always pottering around the kitchen. A little stirring then another ladleful of stock and maybe roasting some vine tomatoes or making a pesto to stir through.

It's a labor of love.

Soaking porcini mushrooms for Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

Now it's not to say I haven't had some disasters over the years when I think it's all going to plan but end up eating at 10:30 (one time 11...eeekk) at night and being so sweaty and past hungry I feel like a train wreck. Not to mention the kitchen looks even more like a train wreck than I do. I have found the trick is not to get flustered. Yeh yeh easier said than done but if I keep my cool and just potter it's usually quite satisfying, a tastier dinner and I don't end up feeling like a train wreck at the end.

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

These Eggplant and Porcini meatless 'meatballs' with tomato sauce were such a success and an absolutely delicious one at that! They are definitely a labor of love and not a quick mid week meal but in saying that if you get home from work earlier then I do why not spoil yourself during the week and put in a little extra effort?

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

I got the recipe from blogger Amelia Morris from Bon Appetempt who found it in a magazine called Food and Wine. It's actually the first post I read from her blog. The link was part of The Wednesday Chef's Saturday links post back in October last year and I've been a huge fan ever since (I even went back and read most of her old blog posts...). If your a regular reader you've probably heard of me going on about her blog and her cooking show on youtube so I'll stop my ramble and just link everything here (you really should check her out!).

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

This dinner was actually incredible. I am still thinking about them a week later and not only did I thoroughly enjoy myself pottering around the kitchen and rolling garlicky eggplant balls but the taste was incredible. You get the robust flavours from the dried porcini mushrooms and garlic that work so well with the silky eggplant. Oh and the tomato sauce uses the porcini soaking water in it which turns it into a turbo tomato sauce that is packed with flavour. I loved this recipe and will be making it again for sure! I served it with crusty bread but it would work perfect with pasta too or even polenta.

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

The eggplant and porcini balls are just as delicious without the tomato sauce (I snacked on a couple while cooking them) and they would be a great appetiser or cold the next day on a sandwich is good too :)

Show a little labor of love this week or weekend and cook these for dinner... it's well worth it!

Eggplant and porcini meatless meatballs with tomato sauce.

Eggplant and porcini meatless 'meatballs' with tomato sauce.

Serves 4
(Recipe from Food & Wine and Bon Appetempt)
Please note I have converted the recipe into metric measurements so they vary slightly from the original.

1 large eggplant or 2 smaller ones (about 560g)
28g dried porcini mushrooms (I used 20g) **
boiling water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4  cloves garlic, finely grated
2x 800g cans of whole italian tomatoes, seeded and pureed with their juices (I used 2 bottles of passata)
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves, plus extra leaves for garnish
freshly ground pepper
3 cups of fresh bread crumbs (from 170g crustless country bread)
2 large eggs, beaten
60g pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving (I used parmesan)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
plain flour, for coating
vegetable oil, for frying
crusty bread, for serving

- Preheat your oven to 350F or 180C.

- Prick your eggplant(s) all over with a fork and place on a baking tray. Roast in the centre of the oven for 1 hour, until very soft and collapsed. Let the eggplant cool slightly, then scrape the eggplant flesh into a bowl and let cool completely. Discard the skin (I was impatient so I stuck my hot eggplant flesh in the freezer for 15 min to cool down).

- Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, cover the porcini with 1.5 cups of boiling water and let stand until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain but reserve the soaking liquid. Rinse the porcini to remove any grit and extra dirt then finely chop the porcini.

- In a large casserole pot heat olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and half the garlic and cook on medium heat, stirring, until softened for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree (or passata) and pour in the porcini soak liquid but stopping before reaching the grit at the bottom of the bowl. Bring it to a boil and then simmer on low heat until thickened, about 1 hour. Add half the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.

- In a medium sized bowl mix together the chopped porcini, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, remaining garlic, eggplant flesh with 1 teaspoon of course salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper.

- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Form the eggplant mixture into 20 balls (about 1 3/4 inches), rolling tightly. Dust the balls with plain flour and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

- In a non stick frying pan heat 1 cm deep of vegetable oil. Add half of the eggplant balls at a time and cook over medium to high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towel. Add the eggplant balls to the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil leaves and serve with extra grated cheese and crusty bread.

** I got the dried porcini mushrooms from Essential Ingredient online.

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