Thursday, October 25, 2007

Armenian Aubergine Stew (or Armenian Eggplant Stew, if you wish)

There's a smart little paperback by Nicholas Glee, called Don't Sweat the Aubergine: What Works in the Kitchen and Why, that I love. It's trying to de-mystify various kitchen conundrums - to wash the rice or not before cooking? to sweat the aubergine/eggplant with salt first? do you simmer your stock for 1, 2,6 or 10 hours? and such like. But it was the title that intrigued me enough to actually order the book. You see, most of the recipes using aubergines ask to salt, rinse and dry the aubergine before cooking. There are two major explanations for that. Explanation 1: apparently it eliminates the bitterness in aubergine - but then most 'modern' aubergines aren't bitter to start with. Explanation 2: it helps NOT to soak up too much oil afterwards. Mr Glee isn't convinced. Neither does he buy into Delia Smith's explanation that salting concentrates the flavour. He does recommend simply cutting up the aubergine, tossing with oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in the oven. Nice...

But here's a much better way to treat aubergines, trust me. In this recipe for 'juicy stewed eggplant' adapted from St Gregory's Church's fundrising cookbook Adventures in Armenian Cooking the aubergines are added to a simple tomato sauce. The aubergines soak up the seasoned tomato sauce (healthy, virtually fat-free), and emerge half an hour later being meltingly soft and tender, with plenty of flavour. It is equally delicious when freshly cooked, but is an extremely satisfying when eaten cool hours or even a day or two later.

The stew is seasoned with dried herbs - basil & mint in this case. The use of dried mint as a seasoning is especially widespread in Armenia, alongside cumin, barberries and various fresh herbs. Whereas the cuisines of the Caucasus area are typically quite meat-heavy, then Armenians also love their fruit, vegetables and salads. You can read more about Armenian cuisine here, here or here.

Armenian Aubergine Stew
(Armeenia pommuhautis)
Serves 4

about 500 grams aubergine (I used 3 smaller ones), cut into small chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
2 Tbsp olive oil
400 grams crushed tomatoes or 500 grams tomato passata
0.5 tsp dried basil
0.5 tsp dried mint
coarsely ground black pepper
200-300 ml boiling water

fresh basil or/and mint, to garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add onion and bell pepper and fry gently for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add whole garlic cloves, season with basil, mint, salt and pepper. Saute for another few minutes.
Now add tomatoes (either crushed tomatoes or tomato passata), aubergine chunks and hot water. Give it a stir, then simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, until aubergine is meltingly soft, but still holds its shape. Stir every now and then, adding more water, if the stew looks too dry.
Season to taste, garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

This is also my entry for the Vegetarian Awareness Month event hosted by Margot of Coffee & Vanilla.


Anonymous said...

Yum - I love fresh mint but dried is somehow just right in this kind of dish!

It's not quite as healthy as your approach, which I'll have to try, but griddling thin slices of aubergine also works really well in cutting down on how much oil you need.

Katie Zeller said...

I've just been reading "What Einstein told His Cook"... Now I have another one to add to my wish list - I love the name!
And I love the Armenian Aubergine stew - rolls off the tongue nicely..and sounds delish!

Kärt said...

Hehehe, ei ole võimalik. Ma just eile ka tegin sarnast sööki :D (kalkuniliha oli juures). Väga sügisene kõhutäis mumeelest, samas söön baklazaani hea meelega iga kell, eriti hea ongi kuidagi tomatitega.

Mariajaan said...

Wonderful. I have done some of the following, trying to imitate my grandmother recipes (she is a Colombian, from the Atlantic coastal area where we have big settlements of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants). I fry the eggplants with white and green onions, few previously cooked artichoke`s hearts, garlic, and some very ripe tomatoes in olive oil. when they are already tender I add a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and leave it quiet for the ingredients to settle. I keep it in jars in the refrigerator and use it as a spread (the consistency is very soft) for focaccia and other not so tasty breads as well. This is a treat even better for many of my friends than any cake or dessert. It really gets better and better as the hours pass (Just hours, it does not last more than a couple of days).
Would you share with us other Armenian recipes? I would also like to give you some of the best recipes of Colombian gastronomy.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love eggplant with mint -- it's a relatively recent combination for me, and now I can't imagine why I'd not tried it sooner.

Evelin said...

Ohjah, see sinu lause, et Kaukaasia köögid on liharohked. See PARATAMATULT toob mulle meelde minu enda esimese Kaukaasia-kogemuse.

Elasime alpinistide baaslaagris, kus olid sööklas no ikka eriti halvad toidud. Äärmiselt. A la salat kõigist viimase 2 päeva jääkidest. Ja siis ühel õhtul oli kogu õhtusöögiks...kaks kotletti. LIHTSALT kaks kotletti. Liharohke köök, jah tõesti:D

Läksime tuppa kondenspiima ja suitsivorsti sööma.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I eat a lot of eggplant, and I readily admit that I don't salt it first. I can't say I've ever noticed a difference. As for it absorbing too much oil, I usually pour the oil in a bowl and use a pastry brush to apply it to the eggplant. That way I don't use too much. Your recipe sounds divine to me.

Gloria Baker said...

I love this recipe Pille, because I lke so aubergines. Really I will try.
I have to tell you two days ago I make cheese cauliflowers, so nice recipe we love them, we eat all!!!Thanks dear Gloria

Shaun said...

Pille - I love that you have made this stew. I've been meaning to assemble all the Armenian recipes I have to see what the commonalities are. I like to do things like that during my down-time. Then there is the cookery book "The Armenian Table," but I won't look into buying that until Eric and I have a fixed abode.

Anyway, re: bitterness in aubergines, I think it has to do with the seeds, and in my experience aubergines that weigh more than 8oz tend to be bitter. But I tend to buy ones that weigh less and don't bother with salting them.

Wendy said...

Have to say, I'm an aubergine salter! For the second reason rather than the first.
This stew is very similar to an aubergine curry dish I'm going to blog about later this week. Love how meaty they are! :)

Coffee and Vanilla said...


So good I noticed your post, I'm preparing round up and I don't have email from you, I saw your entry by chance :)


Jeanne said...

Sounds fabulous - I love both tomatoes and aubergines. I salt mine when the mood takes me & when I have the time, in other words not that often! The book sounds great - it's going to have to go on my wishlist!

Laurie Constantino said...

So glad to know about this book -- it looks really interesting. Armenian food is so good -- in fact, we had it last night (I'm in the middle of writing a piece about it) and I'm going to an Armenian friend's house for lunch tomorrow. So maybe the day after that I'll make your recipe and call it The Week of the Armenians. Thanks Pille!

Pille said...

Sophie – dried mint worked well – and you can always use fresh mint as garnish. I’ve read about the griddling approach before, but yes, thanks for reminding me!

Katie – I need to check out that “What Einstein told His Cook” – quite a title!?

Kärt – ootan Su blogipostitust!

SalulaidSolarte – you’ve got quite a multicultural background!!! And yes, I’ll be sharing more Armenian, Georgian and other Caucasus recipes on the blog – love the cuisine of that region!

Lydia – well, it’s never too late to try something new..

Evelin – Sa käisid Gruusias, eks ole? Kurb, et teil seal laagris kehvad toidud olid, sest gruusia kook on ju ilmakuulus oma hõrgutiste poolest. Siin blogiski on olnud hatšapuri ja kanatšahhobili retseptid. Aga jah, liharohke on see vist küll.. Kondenspiim suitsuvorstiga kõlab muidugi natuke nagu lambarasv vahukoorega J

Susan – applying oil with a pastry brush sounds like a smart idea!

Gloria – thank you for trying the recipes – it makes me happy J

Shaun – I haven’t got “The Armenian Table” ( link/ link) yet, but might look it up. Luckily I’ve got quite a few other cookbooks on FSU cuisines, so I’ve got a good supply of Armenian recipes to try.
And yes, I always prefer smaller aubergines as well. I like each chunk to have some peel as well, so smaller are better for that.

Wendy – I’m looking forward to your aubergine curry recipe!

Margot – I meant to email you, but got distracted with the WHB roundup. Thank you for including me!

Jeanne – well, if you love both aubergines and tomatoes, then this dish should appeal to you. You can always spice it up with some chilli if you want something hotter, of course.

Laurie – please let me know where to find a link to your piece on Armenian food when it’s out, ok. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Armenian food is certainly my favorite cuisine:)


pierre said...

I love all kind of stews and this one looks really scrumptious !! thanks forthe sharing
I am Pierre from France
I have created my food blog dedicated to French creative cooking ; feel free to visit my blog door is always open !you are very welcome
See you soon
Cheers From Paris