- 2 small eggplants (aka the aubergines) – about 1lb all up
- olive oil for frying (it’s part of the taste)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 250 g of minced beef – about 1/2 lb
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon of oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of basil
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- small amount of grated cheese (we use about a tablespoon of parmesan for its strong taste in a small volume)
- plain flour (or polenta for gluten free)
- Slice the eggplant thinly, sprinkle salt on each slice and let it all sit in a colander for about half an hour. Put in on a plate or over the sink to catch any liquid.
- Wash the eggplant really, really, really well. It really matters in this dish. Pat dry.
- Fry the salted, washed and dried eggplant slices until they are soft.
- In an ideal fiddly world: chop the eggplant up, then mix by hand in a bowl with the meat, herbs and spices. Fussy people say this gives a better texture.
In my kitchen: throw it all into a blender/food processor and hold the ‘on’ button for about a minute (until it has been mixed together). You might have to add a couple of spoonfuls of cornflour if you overdo it here. The final mixture should be a nice, smooth consistency for rolling into meatballs.
- Pour the plain flour (or polenta if you are using that) onto a plate. Using wet hands, roll the mixture into small, one-inch diameter balls. As you make each ball, roll it in the flour/polenta to coat it all over.
- Sit the coated balls on a plate and pop them in the fridge for half an hour.
- Heat some oil in a large, heavy frypan and fry the balls for about 20 minutes. Pay attention and turn them to make sure they brown evenly without burning. You might have to do this in batches.
You can serve them cold, but we prefer to serve them hot with a salad and a home-made tomato ‘sauce’ made of a capsicum, a cup of chopped tomatoes and a cup of water. After you’ve made the meatballs, tip all the sauce ingredients into the pan, simmer for a while until the capsicum soften, then pop the meatballs back in for a few minutes to reheat.
Using polenta (corn meal) instead of flour gives a much lighter aubergine meatball. It’s one of those times where the gluten-free option tastes better than the more traditional approach.
Source: Adapted from Middle Eastern Cookery (1982), by Arto der Haroutunian. Cox & Wyman Ltd: Reading. (There’s very little adapting, to be fair; but that’s the way with just about everything in this book.)