Blackened eggplant with miso dressing

After having had a chest infection all last week, and also finding out that I have asthma, today I have been for a swim and found out that if you have a puffer then you can swim a kilometre with perfect ease and no breaks to have a breather as breathing continues to be a thing that is possible.  Who would have thought.  I am extremely pleased with this development, really useful drugs are the absolute best.

In celebration of this (and also because I happened to make it last week and remembered to take some piccys) here is a recipe for something that is so nice I basically want to cry with happiness every time I eat it.  It has the added benefit of being low fat – if you’re into that kind of thing – AND vegan, so bloody-well-everyone can enjoy this.  Except people who don’t like eggplants but there’s just no helping some people.

This is a bit of a riff on the old nasu dengaku, but instead of grilling the eggplants I’ve steamed them then fried them cut side down in a hot frying pan.  I do it this way because I like eggplant to be really cooked – basically falling apart – before I eat it and steaming is great way to achieve that.  I also find our griller a little bit temperamental which is why I use the frying pan method.  If you’re making nasu dengaku, traditionally you brush a miso glaze on the eggplant then put it back under the griller until it bubbles.  What I’ve got here is more of a warmish mouthgasm that I like to serve with rice and a simple stir-fry.  This is a dish you could easily make on the barbecue too, the key is to make sure the temperature is not too high – you want the eggplant to be soft and cooked on the inside before it burns on the outside.

I used white miso here because it’s what I usually have in the house but traditional nasu dengaku calls for red miso.  If you go for the red miso option you will need to add some sugar to the dressing and I would definitely omit the tamari, as red miso is much saltier and umami laden than white.

Blackened eggplant with miso dressing – serves 2

1 eggplant, halved

for the dressing:

1 ½ TBS miso
1 TBS mirin or rice wine vinegar
1 tsp tamari (optional)
few drops sesame oil
¼ – ½ garlic clove, minced very finely (leave out if you don’t like raw garlic)
½ – 1 TBS water
a little grated ginger

Score the eggplant in a diamond pattern to a depth of 1-1.5 cm.  You’ll notice that in the picture at the top the eggplants are not scored, this is because I got distracted by something shiny and forgot to do it.  It matters not, you can do it once you’ve fried them (as I did) – or not at all – they’re mostly there to make little runnels for the dressing and to look good.

what? I totally pre-scored these eggplants and didn't just do it after I cooked them...

Pop the eggplants in a steamer and steam for 12-15 mins, until soft but not collapsing.

Meanwhile, using a little whisk or a fork, mix all the dressing ingredients together to form a smooth and consistent paste that is fairly runny.  Give it taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.  You might want to add a little sugar, if the mood takes you.  Put aside.

Bit of a tight squeeze in my steamer

Heat a frying pan with a little oil to a medium heat, a non-stick frying pan is your friend here.  Put the eggplants cut side down in the pan and let them fry slowly until well browned on the under side.  Try to resist the temptation to jiggle them around a lot in the pan to stop them sticking – usually this just pulls the little stuck bits off and exposes a new surface to stick.  If you let the eggplants develop a stronger crust then when it comes to getting them out of the pan, even if they stick a little, you should be able to slide a spatula under more easily while gently scraping the bottom of the pan.  If you get along well with your griller you could save yourself some bother here and just use that – just brush the eggplants with a little oil then cook cut side toward the flame until nicely browned/blackened.

Snuggling eggplants

Put the eggplants on a plate, pour over the dressing.  You could garnish these with some sesame seeds, black or white, or some slivers of spring onion or chives.

Eat warm or cool.  I served mine with rice and stir-fried Chinese broccoli with omelette and almonds, but it’s great just on its own.