A feast of flavours: Middle Eastern style Aubergines with my Cape Malay inspired meatballs

I love the fragrant and bold flavours used in Middle Eastern cooking, and also the simple ingredients used. I also love the style of eating – very casual and laid-back, incorporating all the senses.
You need to touch the food, eat with your hands; experience the smell, get carried away by it; see all the beautiful dishes and of course taste the delightful flavours, all the while some fabulous music plays in the background – voila, the scene is set!
A friend of mine prepared the most delicious aubergine {my absolute favourite vegetable!} dish for our monthly book club get-together and I just had to re-create it at home.
Buttery soft aubergines, delicately spiced with cumin and paprika, drenched in a tangy lemon and garlic dressing – yum.
I teamed these up with Cape Malay inspired meatballs and a huge bowl of butter lettuce. Fantastic – you could eat with your hands! {A mini mezze platter…}

The meatballs hinted of a bobotie, with golden sultanas and a hint of apricot, alongside fragrant curry spices.

All the elements of this dish is totally Paleo- and Banting-friendly, except perhaps for the teaspoon of apricot jam used… But you could leave that out. Or not, I don’t think a teaspoon will hurt anyone.

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For the aubergines, you will need:

Baby aubergines, as many as you want, halved
Olive oil
Salt
Cumin
Paprika
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Heat a large glug of olive oil in a large pot or pan. Start by placing the aubergines in the pan, with the sliced side down. Get them nice and brown, then turn them over and salt the cooked side. Let the skin side also brown – you might need a bit more olive oil, as they tend to suck it up like a sponge. Once both sides have been browned, place the lid on and let them steam for a few minutes, just to soften them up nicely.
While they’re still hot, sprinkle with a tiny bit of paprika and cumin, then scatter the zest and garlic on top and drizzle with the lemon juice.

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For the meatballs, you will need:

Roughly 800g of minced meat {I used Eland, a type of game meat}
Salt to taste
1 egg
1/2 a cup of sultanas
1 tsp smooth apricot jam
2 tbs curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
Zest of 1 orange

Sauté the onion until soft, then add the curry powder, turmeric and cumin and fry until fragrant. Set aside.
Next, mix all the rest of the ingredients, as well as the onion and spices. Make sure you mix it thoroughly.
Heat up some olive oil and fry one meatball to make sure you’ve added enough salt.
If you’re happy, roll the rest of the mixture into bite-sized balls and fry on all sides until golden and cooked through.

Serve with the aubergines and some butter lettuce – simple, delicious, totally satisfying!

Enjoy! X

Meatballs with caramelised onions & mushrooms

Don’t you just hate those days when you have x, y, z ingredients and you can’t seem to picture a whole dish..?!
I had mushrooms – had to use them soon, I had onions and I had lettuce… {Mince in the freezer.}
There were also a few other bits and bobs in the fridge, but nothing that made sense. I decided on meatballs and everything else was still a blank.

For the meatballs you’ll need:
500g venison mince {or beef}
Salt & pepper
Cumin, about a teaspoon
Cayenne pepper, a sprinkle
1 egg
Bacon fat {for frying}
Mix all together and shape into small bite-sized balls. Fry in bacon fat.

I prepared my never-fail caramelised onions to go with the meatballs, because they go with just about anything, plus the venison goes very well with something slightly sweet.

You will need:
1 onion, sliced
Butter
Balsamic vinegar
Honey
Sauté the onion in butter until soft, then add a tbs of honey and balsamic vinegar and let it caramelise.

You can have the meatballs just like this, topped with some caramelised onions on a bed of baby lettuce – perfect – or you can add a moreish mushroom sauce.

You will need:
Brown mushrooms
Cream
Butter
Salt

The best way to prepare this entire dish is as follows:
Start by making the onions.
In that same pan, fry the meatballs.
Again, in the same pan, make the mushroom sauce. That way you get the additional flavour from the bacon fat and meatballs infused in the mushroom sauce. That is the key!

So, to make the mushroom sauce, add some butter to the pan and sauté the mushrooms until soft. Season with salt and add about half a cup of cream. Let it reduce a bit and voila.
Finish it all off with a handful of wild rocket and a drizzle of olive oil.
You have the comfort of the meatballs, with a bit of sweetness from the onions, an earthy mushroom sauce {just enough, not to drench the dish in a creamy sauce} and fresh, sweet, crisp greens. A perfectly balanced meal!

I must say, this would also work really well as an appetizer for a dinner party – it’s certainly elegant enough and very tasty, plus you could make everything in advance and just assemble it on little side plates to serve. I would just make it a smaller portion, perhaps 2 meatballs per person.

Enjoy! X

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Blue cheese & caramelised onion meatballs with rocket & marinated tomatoes

These tasty little treats were quite a surprise – one of those ‘will it work, or won’t it…?’ kind of experiments…
Inspired by the blue cheese gem squash I made earlier this week, these meatballs were born. Ok, so not so much a meatball, but something like it…

You will need:
500g mince {I used venison mince}
Salt & pepper
1 egg
Half a handful of chopped coriander
A pinch if fresh origanum, chopped
50g blue cheese, crumbled
1 onion, sliced
Red wine vinegar
Honey
Butter

Sauté the onion in butter, add a splash of red wine vinegar and a drizzle of honey – cook until caramelised.
Mix the caramelised onions with all the rest of the ingredients and scoop into a muffin pan. Pat the mixture down firmly into each cup {it should make 6}.
Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

Serve on a bed of rocket and top with marinated tomatoes and a dollop of cream cheese.
{Marinated tomatoes: cut small cherry or Roma tomatoes in half and sprinkle with freshly ground salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar – let it marinade for at least half an hour.}

So yum – enjoy! X

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