This is a recipe redux of the Moroccan eggplan jam I did two years ago but I have a good reason. A couple of weeks ago, Lorraine Elliott from Not Quite Nigella came to the Sunshine Coast from Sydney for 24 hours. She came up to give a talk at Freestyle Escape Cooking and Art School in the hinterland not far from where I live.
We’ve been blog friends for a long time – I even admitted once to being a stalker of her blog and she admitted that she quite liked that about me. Lorraine asked if John and I would like to meet for dinner and I quickly pencilled it in my diary.
All of us who follow Lorraine’s blog do so for a few reasons. One reason is because it’s bloody brilliant reading. We get to know who Lorraine is, who her husband is, her family, her friends and her food. Another reason is to figure out how she got to be so popular with everyone.
After meeting her, I can share reason number two. She’s talented, she’s nice and she’s incredibly funny. I plan to find a university course I can audit for these qualities.
We met at one of the Freestyle Escape luxury lodges she was staying in. The view over the entire Sunshine Coast to the ocean was fantastic. At night you see all the lights of every community along the coast and even out to the big cargo ships waiting for a pilot to take them in to Brisbane harbour. I was mesmerised. The house was top quality through and through – including a gourmet kitchen.
I had left my copy of her book, Not Quite Nigella, My Path to Happiness Through Baking and Blogging on my hall table. I wanted to get it signed. Doesn’t it make you angry when you do something silly like leave things behind? I haven’t done it yet but I’m going to mail it to her so some day I can say I have a first edition AND it’s signed.
Minutes after we arrived, there was Martin Duncan, the chef and owner of Freestyle Escape and Freestyle Tout in Brisbane. Remember when I did the Nose to Tail cooking experience? That was at the Freestyle Escape cooking school.
If you’ve never met Martin, set your goal to do just that. Even if you have to travel across the world. What an entertaining man with the biggest heart I’ve seen in a long time. Check that link for Freestyle Tout in Brisbane and you’ll see that each of his desserts is a work of art.
Martin quickly set about starting a big fire in the fireplace so we could have a cozy chat and we plopped on the overstuffed sofa and the first thing I asked was, “Can you talk like Tuulikki for me?” (That’s her Finnish mother-in-law) I roared and could almost see the MIL with her flowing purple scarves.
Lorraine gave me some of her spicy beetroot chutney (absolutely wonderful – click the photo for her recipe) that she’d brought along and I gave her some ginger in syrup that’s a local legend around here.
Then we were off to Spicer’s Tamarind Retreat for drinks and nibblies (it’s a beautiful place) and then we headed higher up the hills to Montville and dinner at Peter and Belinda Brettell’s Wild Rocket at Misty’s restaurant. Since Lorraine was the visitor, she wrote about the dinner on her blog.
I’m going back to try different things one day soon. Peter is the chef who’s going to be presenting The Photographer, The Chef and the Blogger workshop on June 22nd in Maleny.
At the restaurant the fire was roaring and the friendship we’d begun online turned real. Martin was a scream when he explained what our star signs said about each of us. I’m Aquarius and now hold your hands in front of you and wiggle your fingers and say, “Aquarius? You live on a different astral plane from the rest of us. You don’t need anyone.” I glanced over at John and he said, “I’m not saying a word,” and laughed.
Ranee from Rani’s Cuisine is a friend and she joined us at Wild Rocket made a wonderful addition to the crowd. She was born in Mauritius, raised in Africa, India and Canada and gave up being a lawyer when her children came along. She got bored and now in her spare time she gives Mauritian cooking lesson dinner parties in customers’ homes around southeast Queensland. She’s got a great story.
So now you know why I made the Moroccan eggplant jam, right? I had to have something to go with the spicy beetroot relish! We love dips and we make some every week but I hadn’t made the Moroccan Eggplant Jam for two years. It’s not always easy to get really good looking little Chinese eggplant – the ones that look like long fingers.
I made some changes this time. The first recipe said to peel the eggplant and when I looked at those little babies I couldn’t make myself scrape all the good bits off. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be okay and it was perfect. I even made it in my Thermomix this time.
- 750 grams eggplant chopped
- 4 cloves garlic very finely diced
- 1 onion finely diced
- Oil for frying
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 long red chilli finely diced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 100ml white vinegar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
- Chop eggplant into small pieces
- Prepare garlic and onion and dice very finely
- Combine eggplant, garlic and onion
- Cook in batches in a pan til soft, then add all the eggplant back to the pan
- Add paprika, cumin, turmeric and chilli and cook for 30 seconds
- Add vinegar and brown sugar and stir well to combine
- Reduce heat, stirring often, til most of the moisture has evaporated
- Stir in salt and pepper to taste and chopped herbs
- Transfer to serving bowl
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley or coriander (cilantro) and a dusting of paprika
- Serve at room temperature with pita bread
- Will be good for 2 weeks if kept covered in the refrigerator