After being given a couple of shopping bags full to the top of different varieties of eggplant this week, I decided I would have a go at marinated eggplant - being that it is one of my most favourite-est things to have on an antipasto platter (and also maybe because antipasto platters generally mean wine for me too hehe).
There seem to be a few different methods for preparing and preserving eggplant. I did some basic research on the net, and had been given a recipe from a work colleague a while ago. So I had a frame of reference for this experiment - but rather than going with one single recipe, I thought I would give each of the methods a wee go so I could compare for the next batch.
As such, I don't have exact amounts for this recipe - but really just an idea of what to use (roughly).
I began with a shopping bag FULL (I mean full to brimming) - and prepared them as such:
These were the round marbled variety - which I had never cooked with before - so I sliced them up and salted them and let them sit for a few hours to allow the moisture to seep out. Apparently this helps with reducing the bitterness (which a lot of people say isn't really necessary with commercial breeds of eggplant now-a-days) - but seeing as I had never used this breed before I thought it might be wise to give this method a go.
These were the common long purple variety - half of which I boiled in vinegar and water until just soft - and then fried in olive oil until completely cooked. The other half I just fried straight in the oil (taking slightly longer than the pre-boiled slices) until slightly golden.
The slices that were sprinkled with salt to seep the bitterness out were also fried lightly in olive oil.
Eggplant is hella absorbent, so you will use quite a lot of oil to fry them - I used an olive oil with a mild flavour to not over complicate the end product. Normally using a large amount of oil turns my stomach a bit, but seeing as the end result is preserved in flavoured oil it didn't really bother me too much. Besides, marinated eggplant (and all the delicious things you have with it) are a "sometimes" food, so no need for panic stations....
I finely chopped 3 heads of garlic and a handful of sweet golden shallots to infuse in the oil (approx 1L), along with 4 pretty heaped tablespoons of Italian herb mix. I also added two tablespoons of raw brown sugar - just for balance. Don't heat the oil to quickly or to too high a temperature - you don't want to "cook" the herbs as such. After I infused the oil, I did think to myself perhaps I may have been better with a few less shallots - but after the jars have sat for a while to marinate I will have a better idea. It certainly wasn't unpleasant, just maybe masked the garlic slightly.
As the eggplant slices were fried, I started layering them with the garlic/shallot/herb infused oil (including the chunky bits of herbs) in each of the jars
Then right at the end, top with the infused oil and a cap full or two of white balsamic vinegar. Give it a good shake - and let it cool down completely before you put a lid on.
I can't wait to give this a try this weekend - with some yummy cheese and biscuits and olives - and of course, a big glass of wine!
Be warned though, this recipe was a long-winded and drawn out process - and if you decide to give it a go - there is a good chance your kitchen is going to end up looking like this bloody mess! Worth it in the end though...