Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ottolenghi's eggplant kuku

Photo courtesy of my dear friend Malaka at Aloha Mahalo

I've been meaning to give kuku, the Iranian filled omlette/frittata, a go for the looooongest time. Considering I have numerous delectable-sounding recipes in various Iranian cookbooks, it is ironic that it took a recipe from an Israeli chef to get the ball rolling, but there you go...

I first had kuku in Iran while staying with my dear friend Gh's family in Shiraz. Although a family of gourmands, my hosts ate simply in the evening as the midday meal was the main meal of the day. If I remember correctly, we had kuku twice, once a potato version that we had for dinner wrapped in lavash bread. The second time, one that we took with pots of other delicacies, bread and soft drinks to a pretty spot for a night-time picnic!

Featuring saffron and tart zereshk (dried barberries) this Ottolenghi version from the chef's New Vegetarian column in the Guardian contains some of the essence of Iran in one delicious dish.

I made this for my 40th birthday celebration, and it was a big hit with both guests and cook (g). It can be made up in advance (I made it the night before the party) and just reheated in the microwave. It is also lovely at room temperature, so great for a picnic (any time of day).

I used homemade ghee (made by my dear Indian friend S's Mum) instead of oil for the onions and eggplant, and the results were sensational. Really sweet and rich.

Barberries are tiny berries less than half the size of a dried cranberry. They are super tart and feature in quite a few Iranian dishes. I had some dried barberries lying about (the fresh ones I have stashed in the freezer would've been even better), but they may not be so easy to come by. In Japan, Tehran Shop in Yokohama (directions in Japanese here) stocks them, and in Melbourne, Australia, I've seen them at NSM Importers & Wholesalers, just down the road from Brunswick Station. If you can't get them, Ottolenghi recommends substituting 1 tbsp of lime juice. A lot of the other kuku recipes I have also have lime juice in them, so it is quite authentic. Give it a go! I might even add BOTH next time round!!

The recipe calls for a 22 cm spring-form cake tin. I was using mine for the birthday cake (!), so this went in the oven right in the T-fal wokpan the onions and eggplant were cooked in. It came out perfectly without greasing and papering and that's how I will cook it from now on.

My dear friend and fellow foodie Malaka at Aloha Mahalo, who took the photo above, blogged about the food at my party in Japanese here. Thanks Malaka, this one's for you!

Ottolenghi's eggplant kuku

Serves 6

120 ml sunflower oil, plus extra
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 medium aubergines, peeled
5 free-range eggs
2 tbsp plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
25g chopped parsley, plus extra to garnish
1 tsp saffron strands, dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp salt
Black pepper
20g dried barberries, rinsed and dried

1 Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan and sauté the onions over medium heat for seven minutes, until soft but not brown.

2 Meanwhile, cut the aubergines in two widthways, cut each half into 1cm-thick slices, then cut each slice into 1cm-thick strips. Add these to the onion pan and cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for around 10 minutes, until the aubergines are completely soft (add a little more oil if needed, but not a lot). Set aside to cool down.

3 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, baking powder, parsley, the saffron and its water, garlic, salt and a good grind of pepper. Once smooth, fold in the barberries and the aubergine and onion mix.

4 Brush a 22 cm spring-form cake tin with plenty of oil, line with greaseproof paper and brush the paper with more oil. Pour the egg mix into the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden-brown and cooked through – insert a skewer in the middle to make sure the egg has set.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley. It will keep in the fridge for two days.


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