I have been feeling restless lately, a little stuck. In pursuit of personal development, I have been pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
I learned a new knitting stitch, increased my running speed, and cooked a dish I love but have always been intimidated to prepare.
Learning a new recipe often also means learning a few new culinary or food science tricks and tips. For this recipe I learned:
- If you add egg to a Mornay sauce* it allows the sauce to set, making it more like a custard. The trick here is patience. Once cooked, the custard must cool and set before you dig in. Trust me, it is worth the wait. Adding lemon zest brightens the cream or cheese sauce, the acidity balancing the richness.
*Mornay sauce is a variation on Bechamel, with shredded or grated cheese.
- I also re-learned something I thought I knew. Oh knowledge is a funny thing. I thought the purpose behind salting eggplant was to simply extract the bitter water. I don’t mind this taste, so I never bother with this step. The science behind this never actually occurred to me. The extraction of water allows the eggplant to relax, preventing it from soaking up as much oil during cooking.
Being a newbie, I let science overshadow my culinary gut instinct and underestimated the amount of oilstill needed to cook thin slices of un-breaded eggplant and prevent it from sticking to the pan. Sticking can be prevented by being watchful and flipping it, something I neglected to do as I tried to multi-task.
This recipe may look a bit intense and have a fair amount of ingredients. I promise you it is worth the work and the wait. Break it down into it’s three components and it becomes manageable. This is a lesson I take out of the kitchen. By breaking down new tasks into smaller pieces, I am able to focus one step at a time.
This rich dish can really go a long way. I serve it over white rice and either invite family over or prepare this in two smaller casserole dishes and freeze one. The Pheasant Hill Vineyard Syrah pairs well with lamb dishes such as this. Enjoy a glass with friends and family as you dig in.
In what ways do you enjoy pushing yourself? Are there certain hobbies that you enjoy learning more about? Share below.
TOTAL TIME: ~2 HOURS YIELD: 6 – 8
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium or 2 large eggplant, sliced
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1.5 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cayenne
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp fresh oregano/marjoram
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1.5 lbs minced lamb (I found some great lamb at a neighboring farm in Hopewell, Beechtree Farm.)
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 16oz can of tomato puree
- ½ cup Unionville Vineyards Syrah
- Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
For the Mornay:
- 16 oz milk
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup plain flour
- ½ cup pecorino cheese, grated
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- the zest of 1 lemon
- 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, beaten
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Cut the eggplant into quarter inch slices. Layer flat on a cookie sheet, salt each layer. Wait 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, if you are using lamb stew meat, cut the pieces bite sized. Then salt and pepper lamb and coat with ¼ of flour. Set aside.
- Rinse the eggplant and place in a colander to dry.
- Put eggplant slices on a well oiled baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Watch and flip slices as needed. Bake for about 20 minutes or until soft, golden and floppy.
- Meanwhile, put 2 tbsp olive oil into a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Cook the onion and garlic until browned and wilted. Cook the lamb. Add the cinnamon and cook for 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan. Stir in the tomato and wine, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down low and cook for 30–40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season and stir in the parsley, oregano and thyme.
- Meanwhile, make the Mornay sauce. Melt the butter in another saucepan. Whisk the flour into the butter and cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook until you have a thick sauce, then stir in the cheese until melted. The feta cheese may take a little longer to melt. Turn the heat down low, and whisk vigorously every few minutes. This will prevent the sauce from burning and speed up the melting.
- Take the sauce off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then beat in the eggs, salt, pepper, lemon zest and and nutmeg to taste.
- Arrange a third of the eggplant in the base of an oven dish, and top with half the meat. Repeat these layers, then finish off with a layer of eggplant, and top with the sauce. Bake for about 45 minutes until well browned, and then leave to cool for 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve with quinoa tabbouleh and a glass of Unionville Vineyards Syrah.