For some reason, certain clichés and stereotypes are insanely slow to fade away. For one, there’s still a surprisingly (and shamefully) large percentage of neanderthal “gamers” desperately clinging to the illusion that the world of gaming is a chest-thumping, club-swinging men’s world. Another cliché sticking to us gamers like a bad habit is, of course, that we don’t do “healthy”. How can we? We’re sitting in the dark basement with our faces taped to a screen all day~!
Well, you guys know better, and since I’ve been proving the point by swinging my spoon through one of the most extensive game-world cuisines for 3 years now – actually the Blog’s 3rd Birthday is coming up next week~! – I’m going to take it really healthy and even vegetarian this time around.
This little dish, found in the “Snack” section of the Tyrian Menu, set me onto the road to today’s dish many years ago. See, I’ve always had this love-hate relationship going on with eggplants. I absolutely love them when they’re well prepared. Sadly, about 75% of the eggplants I come by aren’t well-prepared at all. Soggy, mushy, grey and pretty much as bland as the color suggests – I bet we all had that kind of eggplant before and questioned the right of the vegetable to exist outside of a Biohazard Box. One of the veggies’ main characteristics is, of course, its remarkable ability to soak up any liquid it comes into contact with, which is also the reason for a lot of the unpleasant consistency experiences I’ve mentioned – at least if said liquid isn’t absolutely divine on its own already. So, when I first came across this dish at the Chef’s Guild’s counter, I couldn’t help but cringe away from it a little bit – but since I’ve also had a few select run-ins with the veg that had revealed that I actually liked eggplants when they were prepped the right, un-soggy way, I decided to experiment around a little bit and turn the potential grease-disaster into something I and everybody else with an eggplant-trauma would enjoy. So here it is, my final version of Tyria’s Eggplant Stirfry! I really hope you guys give it a go and enjoy the result as much as eggplant-trauma-ridden Hubby and I do~!
By the way, this one’s a fantastic prep-in-advance kind of deal, making it a deliciously healthy and non-fussy weekday dinner – Meatfree-Monday comes to mind~! Prep the salad and the yoghurt whenever you’ve got some time to spare on Sunday afternoon or evening, and Monday’s dinner is done in a couple of knife-swipes and pan-flips.
The Barley and Pomegranate Salad
200g Mixed Lettuce Leaves – make sure there’s something bitter like arugula or lollo rosso in there
100g Pearl Barley
1 Bay Leaf
1 Splash of Olive Oil
Enough Vegetable Stock to cook your Barley in
50ml Vegetable Stock – simply set this amount aside after cooking the Barley. Make sure to catch a bit more of the liquid, you’ll need a bit of it for the yoghurt as well
2 Tbsp Mild Cider Vinegar
1 Clove of Garlic
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Lemon Zest
2 Tbsp Mild Olive Oil
½ Bunch of Dill
½ Bunch of Flatleaf Parsley
½ Bunch of Tarragon
3 Sprigs of Mint
1 Tbsp Pomegranate Syrup
Alt: 2 Tbsp Orange or Tangerine Juice
½ Tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp Ras el Hanout
100g Pomegranate Seeds
1 heaped Tbsp Barberries or Chopped dried Cranberries
2 Tsp Honey
Salt, Pepper and Mild Chilli Flakes to taste
1) Prepare a pot with the appropriate amounts of stock, pop in the bay leaf and cook the barley according to its packets instructions.
2) Once it’s cooked through, don’t rinse the little gems, just drain off the cooking liquids and don’t forget to catch and keep 50ml of the stock for later.
3) Grab a large baking tray or a large serving platter, tip the barley out on top of it and spread out the kernels to allow them to steam off and cool down to room temperature.
4) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-based pan sitting on medium-high heat.
5) Once it’s hot enough to sizzle up on contact with a grain of barley, add the butter, garlic and the barley.
6) Gently toast the lot while stirring occasionally until the grains start to sizzle and pop and the delicious nutty aroma of roasting grains start wafting up to you.
7) Use the sort-of downtime to add all of the remaining juices, stock, oil, syrup, fruit, herbs and spices to a mixing bowl and stir them together into a colorful and, at a taste, very intense dressing – I highly recommend not taste-testing it at this point unless you want to make really sure it’s overspiced enough to take on the barley later on.
8) While you’re on a roll with bowls, spoons and all that jazz, you could take care of the creamy topping as well~
9) To finish off the salad, pop the barley and its friends into the bowl holding your dressing and gently stir the lot until everything is well combined.
10) If you’re not plating up immediately, wait until the salad has cooled off entirely, then pop the lettuce leaves on top, cover the bowl with clingfilm or a fitting lid and store it in the fridge until you’re ready – or simply keep the leaves visible and near the bowl so you don’t forget to actually fold them into the barley before plating up, eating, wondering what’s different, enjoying a dessert and discovering the leaves in the back of the fridge the next day… <insert small cough here>
The Spiced-Up Yoghurt
100g Mild Creamy Goat’s/Sheep’s Milk Cheese
100g Low-Fat Natural Yogurt
1 Tbsp Dry Harissa
1 Tbsp Hot Stock – again, go with the Barley-cooking-liquids
1 Tsp Lemon Zest
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Honey
1) Place all of the above in a high-rimmed container and whizz the lot into a smooth and creamy d(r)ipping sauce with a stick-blender.
2) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning and lemon-zing to your liking if necessary.
The Crispy Eggplant Fritters
1 Pinch of dried Rosemary
1 Tsp Dried Savory
1 Tsp each of Salt, Pepper and Sumach
80g Almond Flour
Alt: 80g Wholegrain Wheat Flour – the Almond Flour underlines the nuttyness of the eggplant, but wholegrain wheat is a nice replacement if you can’t get your hands on good quality/affordable Almond Flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil per batch
A few Sprinkles of Lemon Juice – to keep the veg from browning
1) Combine the flour, herbs and spices in a wide bowl or a deep dish.
2) Halve the eggplants with a sharp knife and have a bit of a thoughtful moment – time to decide on the presentation!
3) The Easy Way:
Flip the eggplant halves onto their cutting surfaces and slice & dice them into 1-1,5 cm cubes.
4) The Slightly Less Easy (but prettier) Way:
Carefully carve out the interior of the eggplants – preferably in one large, diceable piece – while keeping the “hull” intact to act as serving dishes later on.
Immediately brush the cutting surfaces of the eggplant-bowls with lemon juice to keep it from browning and then dice the piece(s) you’ve cut out it into 1-1,5 cm bits.
5) Regardless which way you’ve picked, toss the eggplant cubes your knifework resulted in into the spiced flour and turn them over in it until all of the cutting surfaces are coated.
6) Sprinkle the lot with a bit of water and rub the mixture in a bit. This might be a bit of a gooey experience so you might want to consider snapping on a pair of CSI gloves first in order to save the handle of your pan, amongst other things, from involuntarily receiving the same treatment.
7) Speaking of the pan, set a heavy-based pan onto medium-high heat and add the oil.
8) Pop on a lid and allow the oil to reach its maximum heat – which is reached once a tiny bit of eggplant sends the oil into a hissy fit upon contact.
9) Add the eggplant dice in 2-3 batches, depending on the sitze of your pan, and fry each round until the dice are deliciously golden and crispy all around.
10) Once each batch is done, transfer the lot out of the pan onto a tray lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil and moisture while you’re finishing up. Try to spread out the cubes a bit to minimize the chances of them fraternizing and turning each other soggy out of spite.
Assembling the Dish
The Toasted Barley & Pomegranate Salad – and the leaves
The Yoghurt Dip
2 heaped Tbsp of finely chopped Parsley
Opt: Toasted Walnuts, lightly crushed, for some crunch on top~
1) Fold the leaves into your barley salad and divide it onto plates.
2) If you went with the eggplant-bowl option, nestle them next to or into the center of your salad.
3) Pile up your eggplant-dice on top of the salad heaps or inside the hollowed-out halves sitting next to the salad.
4) Distribute the yoghurt in pretty dots all across your servings and sprinkle the tops with pomegranate seeds, parsley and the optional walnuts to your heart’s content.