Eggplant balls with chipotle yoghurt

While I am definitely a summer person and, if given the choice, would always choose sun over snow, I’m surprisingly relieved it finally feels like winter in New York City. Selfishly, this could be largely due to the fact that our family totally invested in winter this year – wiser from our first long, cold, snowy winter of last year, we kitted ourselves in the finest down coats money could buy, snow boots to match, and hats with flaps all around. But up until now, this garb has left us sweaty rather than toasty. So this week, with temperatures (finally!) nosediving in to well below zero, this summer girl is relishing in feeling cold. It even snowed on Sunday and we all danced around under the flurries, tasting snowflakes on our tongues. Before it becomes a hassle (which I’m sure it will soon), we will relish in the beauty of a snowy New York.

The colder days definitely makes me want to hibernate and cook. Last winter, I wrote an entire cookbook while it bucketed snow outside. This week, I’ve been craving spicy food, along with eggplant, one of my favourite vegetables. While some people shy away from the slightly slimy texture of the humble aubergine, I really adore this character. This viscosity is what makes baba ghanoush so silky and addictive. And it is this almost gelatinous quality that makes eggplant perfect for making meatless ‘meatballs’.

These balls of eggplant have me hooked. And they are super simple to make. The cubed eggplant is simply boiled in big pot of salted water before combined with egg, breadcrumbs, garlic and pecorino cheese. My tip is to use a big pot of water as the eggplant tends to float up to the top - use a wooden spoon to push the pieces under the water as it boils. I use two types of ‘breadcrumbs’ – one is simply stale bread, which I tear up into small chunks; the other type is simply dried breadcrumbs you get from the supermarket.

I serve these mouth-popping eggplant balls with a fiery chipotle-laced yoghurt which, incidentally, pairs wonderfully with char-grilled eggplant or roasted cauliflower. Make it as hot or mild as you wish. If you prefer a vegan accompaniment, try a tomato relish or marinara sauce.



Eggplant balls with chipotle yoghurt

Makes 15-18 1-inch balls / Serves 3 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 700g/1.5 lb eggplant, unpeeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 slices stale bread, torn into small pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup tightly packed) chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup (tightly packed) grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 2-3 big handful of rocket/arugula leaves, to serve
  • flat leaf parsley leave, to serve

Chipotle Yoghurt

  • ½ - 1 dried chipotle chilli, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a two big pinches of salt. Add the eggplant cubes and boil, uncovered for 10-15 minutes, until tender. During this time, use a wooden spoon to fully submerge the eggplant in the boiling water. When cooked, drain in a colander and use a wooden spoon to press out any excess water.

Place the drained eggplant to a medium bowl and add the torn stale bread, garlic, parsley, egg and pecorino. Season the mixture with sea salt and black pepper. Using your hands or large spoon, press the mixture together until well combined. Roll into one inch (2.5cm) balls and roll each ball in the dry breadcrumbs.

Heat a medium fry pan over medium heat. Add a big glug of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the eggplant balls and shallow fry until golden all over. Drain on absorbant kitchen paper.

To make the chipotle yoghurt, remove the chilli from the soaking water and finely chop. Stir the chilli and garlic into the yoghurt and mix well. Add a drizzle of olive oil, season to taste with sea salt and stir together until smooth.

To serve, place chipotle yoghurt onto a serving plate. Scatter big handfuls of rocket/arugula leaves on top of the yoghurt. Place the eggplant balls on top and finish with a scatter of parsley leaves.