Our friend is in town for a few weeks visiting family and friends before he is off to meet his wife in Africa. She is doing development work there, so the two of them will make the African country of Botswana their home for the next year. He will also be working during his time there, so it looks like a very exciting time for the both of them! It was great to hear about their plans over dinner and I hope they are diligent in keeping Facebook updated with photos and other tidbits (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge).
I have mentioned this couple before in a earlier post. They gave EPC and I the fabulous Vefa’s Kitchen for a wedding gift, and since one good turn deserves another I decided it would be fitting to cook him a wonderful meal from this cookbook.
In the spirit of their wedding gift, I will share with you an excerpt from the passage they inscribed in the front of the book:
We feel that a loving relationship begins with, and is sustained through food.
I do not think I would come across any disagreements about the truth of this passage from my readers. In fact, EPC and I had our first date over dinner and he did mention how he loves my cooking during his wedding speech last summer. It makes me think of the old cliché: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I know that I certainly feel warmth and love when EPC prepares a delicious meal for me, so I guess that makes it true for women as well. Our guest mentioned how he and his wife love cooking and eating together too. It will be wonderful when they are reunited next month and they can experiment in the kitchen by cooking vegetarian meals with locally available ingredients.
I will confess I had a bit of trouble getting all the eggplant fried up in a timely fashion, so if you try this dish keep that in mind and give yourself enough time. It certainly won’t matter if you assemble the casserole with room temperature eggplant. I decided to make Vefa’s Cashew Wild Rice Pilaf as a side dish. It turned out fabulous and was a nice accompaniment to the eggplant and chickpeas. With great food, old friends and conversation it was nice way to end off the weekend.
Vefa’s Chickpea and Eggplant Casserole
1 1/3 cups dried chickpeas soaked overnight in cold water
3/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
400 g canned diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tsp paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for topping
salt and pepper
2-3 large eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Drain and rise the chickpeas, place in a pot with enough water to cover and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes – skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Rinse and drain the chickpeas
- Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook over low heat until softened – about 5 minutes.
- To the onions and garlic, add the canned tomatoes, allspice, paprika, oregano, chickpeas and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour more – until the chickpeas are tender.
- While the chickpeas are cooking sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let drain in a colander for 1 hour. Rinse drain and squeeze out the excess moisture.
- Heat the remaining oil in pan and cook the eggplant slices for about 8 minutes, turning frequently. You will need to do this in batches. I found that I cooked the eggplant in considerably less oil. If I felt oil was lacking I used my olive oil mister to spritz them as they cooked.
- Preheat oven to 350°C
- Remove the eggplant and blot on paper towels.
- Arrange half the eggplant slice on the base of a casserole dish. Spread the chickpea mixture over top and cover with the remaining eggplant. Cover with tomato slices, sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with olive oil.
- Bake for 50 minutes at 350°C . Serve hot or at room temperature