Thursday, 19 January 2012

Nazuktan: Turkish eggplant appetizer with mint & almonds

When I was a little girl, we used to sing a little ditty about going round the mulberry bush. I had no idea what a mulberry was, but at least I knew it grew on a bush! ...Or so I thought.

The first time I saw an actual mulberry was in Shiraz, Iran--the city of roses and poetry. Two giants of classical Persian poetry are buried there, and the mulberries were growing in the mausoleum of one, Hafez. And they weren't growing on a bush, either. Our dear hostess reached up an plucked what looked like very long blackberries from a tree and offered them up to an amazed Young Man and I. I mean, is it even okay to DO that in a sacred burial place??! It turns out that it is, and the three of us enjoyed a few sweet and sour berries, while other visitors sat on the steps of the monument reading poetry in quiet tones or milled about enjoying the gardens round about.

The next time I saw mulberries was at the local park in my parents' town to the west of Melbourne. Imagine my surprise at the free bounty to be found just across the way from the jungle gym! It was not long before some Turkish picnickers joined us and, between us, we just about stripped the poor saplings of fruit. Our Turkish friends know a good thing when they see it (g).

I was not surprised, then, to find dut pekmezi (mulberry molasses) on an expedition to procure supplies from the Turkish-run Middle-Eastern superstore Basfoods in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. I thought the mulberry tartness would make this pekmez a fine substitute for the sometimes over-sweet notes of regular (grape) pekmez in this lovely blackened eggplant dip from Ghillie Basan's Classic Turkish Cookery. As it turns out, mulberry pekmez is quite sweet, too, so a little more lemon juice was required.

Nazuktan: Turkish eggplant appetizer with mint & almonds

4-5 Asian or 2 regular eggplants
juice of 1/2 lemon (or to taste)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
1 tbsp pekmez
2-3 tbsp roasted almonds, roughly chopped
small bunch fresh mint (approx 20 g), roughly chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper

To garnish
few whole roasted almonds
fresh mint leaves

1 Place the eggplants under a hot grill or hold them directly over a high gas flame, turning them until the skin blackens and they become very soft. Slit them open and scoop out the flesh.

2 Chop the flesh to a pulp and put it in a bowl. Add the other ingredients, except the pekmez, and mix well. Season to taste.

3 Place in a bowl and drizzle with the pekmez. Garnish with the roasted almonds and mint leaves and serve with flatbread.

1 comment:

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