Some time ago, while at our local (and fabulous) green grocer, my 6yr old daughter pointed to an eggplant and asked me what it was. I was momentarily shocked. How could she not know?
She’s always been a great eater, a real foodie-in-the-making and indeed had eaten it in the past and enjoyed it. I then realized that I had never actually involved her in the process of cooking one. We’d never tried growing one either.
So began what became known in our home as the Excellent Eggplant Experiment.
Together, we bought a few eggplant seedlings and popped them into a large pot on the back verandah. After much love and careful tending, we watched as they grew. And grew. And grew.
When they were ready to harvest my daughter was literally wriggling with pride.
In selecting a recipe, I wanted to make sure it was easy, quick and tasty, but more importantly that my budding little chef could ‘lead’ the activity.
Here’s what we decided upon.
Eggplant, Flower and Haloumi stack
(Should make around 4 stacks as an entrée).
2 large eggplants
2 packets of good quality haloumi
Small bunch of fresh lemon thyme
Good quality Extra virgin olive oil
Good quality orange or lemon-infused olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few Viola flowers and leaves
Small handful of washed Dandelion leaves (substitute with small wild rocket leaves if Dandelion unavailable)
Cut the eggplant and haloumi into 1cm thick slices. Sprinkle eggplant with a little salt (to cause sweating) and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a heavy based fry pan. Add just a little of the lemon thyme, roughly chopped.
Gently pan-fry the eggplant (until softened) and haloumi (until crisp). Cook in batches, putting each batch on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
When only just cool enough to handle, arrange the haloumi and eggplant slices in alternating layers. See how far you can go before the whole stack tumbles over.
Sprinkle with the remaining lemon thyme, a little freshly cracked black pepper and pink sea salt.
Then arrange a few pretty viola flowers and tangy dandelion leaves (preferably sourced from your back garden) around the plate.
Drizzle with a little of the citrus infused olive oil.
The flowers and dandelion leaves were my daughter’s idea. I thought it showed wonderful imagination and creativity and of course the bonus is they are both entirely edible.
Caro Webster is a freelance writer, author, fanatical gardener, foodie and a passionate believer in the magic of being outdoors & encouraging lots of unstructured play for children. She has worked in a variety of industries including advertising, politics, benevolent organizations and publishing, but says writing and being ‘Mum’ to two outdoor warriors suits her best. She is currently working on a second book about the power of imagination.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and two young children.
You can find her on twitter @salisburydowns or check out the Small Fry website at www.smallfryfun.com