Bearing fruit

Sour plums add an autumnal feel to a Georgian-inspired dish.

Bearing fruit

Sour plums add an autumnal feel to a Georgian-inspired dish.

As summer wanes and heads to autumn, flavours deepen and mature – harvest produce abounds, but our treatment of it changes. This recipe for spiced eggplant salad fits the bill nicely, says Kelda Hains, head chef of Rita, a small restaurant known for warm, inventive food in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. “This borrows flavours from Georgian cuisine,” she says, “which always seems to make sense to me with autumn produce.” Be sure to make extra plum sauce. “It’s very versatile – I like it with grilled lamb especially.”

Spiced Eggplant Salad with Sour Plum Sauce and Walnuts

The Sauce

This is an adaption from Paula Wolfert’s ‘The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean’. Higher-acid plums such as Billington, omega or damson would all be good for this sauce.

16 small sour plums 

¾ cup water

4 garlic cloves 

½ tsp salt

½ tsp chilli powder, or to taste 

3 sprigs mint, chopped

4 sprigs dill, chopped

¼ cup chopped coriander

Vinegar and sugar, to taste

What To Do

1. Wash the plums and put in a snug pot with the water. Simmer, stirring often, until the plums have collapsed. If the mixture is very thick, add a touch more water to stop it from catching on the bottom of the pot. Push the plums through a sieve to remove the skins and stones. The yield should be about 2 cups.

2. Peel the garlic and crush with the salt. Add to a food processor with the plum puree, chilli powder and the herbs. Process until the herbs are finely chopped, then have a taste. If the plums are sweet, you may need some vinegar – if they are damsons, you will need a few spoonfuls of sugar. I do find this sauce more interesting when it is quite sour – think of it as a kind of tamarind or pomegranate molasses.

3. Scrape the sauce back into the pot and bring to the boil over a high heat. Boil for a minute. Take off the heat and cool, then taste again and make any adjustments.

The Salad

2 medium eggplants 

½ tsp whole coriander seeds

¼ tsp whole fenugreek seeds

1 garlic clove

½ tsp salt 

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

½ cup NZ walnut pieces 

50g feta cheese

Mint, dill and coriander, to garnish

What To Do

4. Cut the eggplants across in 1.5cm slices. Salt lightly and set aside for 5 minutes while you make the dressing.

5. Toast the coriander and fenugreek seeds in a dry pan, then grind to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Add the peeled garlic clove and salt and mash to a paste. Mix in the olive oil and lemon juice and pour onto a plate or shallow dish, spreading it out to cover the surface of the plate.

6. Pat the eggplant dry and fry the slices in plenty of olive oil at a good pace until tender and burnished. Remove each slice onto the plate of vinaigrette. Keep them in a single layer, gently turning them once as they cool.

7. To assemble, put a good amount of plum sauce on each eggplant slice, and then add walnuts, feta and generous amounts of herbs.

89 Aro St, Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington



Print EditionBuy Now

Related Stories: