Deconstructed moussaka; aubergine puree, Virgin-Mary jelly. Interesting…

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Although the greens looked great, they felt a bit leafy and chalky, maybe I’ll chop them up next time

After many attempts (some less successful than others) at trying to make self flavored savory jellies, I think I’ve finally gotten a grip on the technique. This dish was to be a starter to a very rich main (subject of a future post) and so I wanted something vegetarian, light and different. I’ve always been a fan of aubergine and enjoy them in almost every format; growing up my mother’s moussaka was probably my favorite dish in her arsenal, however, what I wanted to avoid here was the very strong spices and flavors associated with Arabic cuisine; I wanted a dish that would continue being true to the aubergine but clean and refreshing as a starter need be. So the elements of the dish were as follows:

1. Aubergine cream dip

2. A Virgin Mary jelly, the reason I used a jelly here (other than because it’s cool) is because I wanted the full virgin Mary flavor to be contained in one solid bite, rather than serving it as a side drink or a dressed tomato salad

3. An homage to Egyptian cuisine was in the form of dark fried onions, giving the dish a bitter-sweet note (slightly crunchy as well)

4. Texture was brought in the form of toasted pine nuts.

5. A salad of micro-greens dressed in a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette brought freshness and a subtle Arabic note. However,I didn’t enjoy the feeling in my mouth of the salad with the aubergine paste… it tasted fine, but the texture was a bit off. Maybe next time I’ll chiffonade the greens instead of serving whole leaves, won’t look as nice but will probably be more enjoyable.

Recipe after the jump:

Makes about 4-5 starter portions

For the Aubergine puree

1 large aubergine

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 shallot chopped

2 garlic cloves diced

1-2 tbsp of butter

1/2 cup cooking cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C

Cut the aubergine in half, spread some olive oil on a baking tray, season the aubergine with salt, pepper and place, flat face down, on the sheet with 1 sprig of time. Allow to cook for about 20m until soft, take out of the oven, and once cooled, remove the skins and the seed pockets and roughly chop the aubergine. In a small pan, melt the butter on a medium-high heat and once the foam subsides, sweat the minced garlic and shallots for 2-3 mins. Add the aubergines and the remaining thyme and cook for about 2-3 mins. Add the cream and keep on the heat until the cream is warmed through (about 1min). Puree everything in a food processor and cool to serve.

For the tomato jelly:

5 large beefy tomatoes peeled and seeded

1 large celery stalk

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp Tabasco sauce (or to taste)

1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp of powdered gelatin

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all the above ingredients (without the gelatin) until it becomes a homogeneous liquid. Pour into a small pan through a fine sieve, taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Sprinkle gelatin evenly onto the juice and heat while whisking until warm (make sure it doesn’t boil, gelatin loses effectiveness once boiled) and all the gelatin has melted. Pour into a silicone ice-cube tray and refrigerate for min. 6hours.

For the Pomegranate Molasses dressing:

1 tbsp of Pomegranate molasses

3 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive oil

1 tbsp of vinegar

1 tsp honey

Juice of half a lemon

Just mix the vinaigrette together and toss the salad in it.

Assemble the components as desired, I decided to use a base of the aubergines, topped with the jelly cubes and sprinkled with the onions and pine nuts and salad. Hope you enjoy!

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