‘Polpetti di Melanzane’ is a common dish created in much of Italy’s south. Some regions add meat, prosciutto or ham to the basic mix and others vary the quantities and types of cheeses used. It is a very robust recipe, so don’t be afraid to experiment, it will always taste good.
Makes – 8 to 12 patties
3 large eggplants
1 cup grated parmigiano or romano
1 bunch of basil (coarsely chopped)
1 bunch of parsley(coarsely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 chilli (finely diced) – optional
salt and pepper
1 cup plain flour for dusting
oil for frying
½ cup breadcrumbs (if needed)
1. De-stalk eggplants, wash and cut in half lengthwise.
2. Place in a large pot, ½ filled with water and 2 teaspoons of salt.
3. Put on heat and boil for 30-40 minutes. Check water occasionally to make sure all water has not boiled away. Eggplant halves should be soft and grey in colour, when cooked.
4. Allow eggplant to sit in the cooking liquid for at least 30 minutes as they cool.
5. Remove lid, discard liquid and allow eggplant to cool to room temperature. If you are in a hurry, you can cool them faster by filling the pot with cold water and allowing the eggplant to expel their heat to the cold water.
6. Once cool enough to touch, take a muslin cloth or clean tea towel and place eggplant halves into the centre. bring the corners together to form a cradle for the eggplants and gently begin to squeeze the flesh through the fabric. Make certain to do this over the sink or a bowl.
7. The water will begin to be expelled from the eggplant and come through the cloth leaving the pulp behind. Continue squeezing until it is difficult to get any more water from the pulp.
8. Turn pulp into a large mixing bowl, scraping any flesh remaining on the cloth and proceed to Stage Two.
1. Break up any large lumps of flesh and add eggs, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly so all ingredients combine evenly.
2. The mixture should not be too soft to handle nor too hard. To test, take a golf ball size of mixture and roll it into a ball, if the mixture sticks to your hands easily then it is too soft, it can be remedied by adding some breadcrumbs. If too hard to shape, then add a tablespoon or two of water. Correct mixture, mix well and test again until satisfied.
3. Once ready to cook, place a fry pan on low heat and fill with 2 centimetres of oil.
4. Place some sifted plain flour onto a shallow plate and fill a bowl with some water to wet hands.
5. Wet hands and take a small amount of mixture about the size of two or three golf balls. Shape the mixture into an egg shape and flatten slightly so it has an even thickness. Place onto floured plate and make some more patties.
6. When you have four or five patties formed turn up the heat on the oil and carefully pick up one of the patties and turn it over so it is coated with flour on the other side.
7. Tap the patty gently to remove any excess flour and slide into hot oil. It should be sizzling.
8. Repeat with other pre-formed patties and cook for 8-10 minutes, then turn them over and cook other side. The patties should be dark and golden when cooked.
9. Remove cooked patties from oil and place on absorbent paper. Keep warm whilst preparing the remaining mixture.
These patties can be served in a multitude of ways:
as is with or without a salad as a lunchtime meal – a simple tomato or guacamole salad work well,
you can form them into small ‘bite sized’ mini- patties as appetizers and hors d’oeuvre with mayonnaise or a dipping sauce of your choice,
placed on a bed of red pasta sauce and covered in cheese and grilled, or
poached in a pasta sauce as vegetarian meatballs and served with pasta.