We hear all the time about seasonal eating, and seasonal fruit and vegetables, but how many of us really eat that way?
We now eat pears, strawberries, kale, and broad beans, whether they're in season or not. Somebody, somewhere in the world, is always growing and producing what the market demands, and why not fly your oranges and squash half way around the world if that's what the folk want....right?
In returning to seasonal eating and cooking, we return to the rhythm of the Mother Earth. We eat what she provides, what she knows is at optimum freshness and bursting with flavour.
Generally speaking (and I know there are always exceptions), the less expensive items at the fruit market, are the seasonal produce, so that also means that eating well need not cost the earth.
In eating healthily on a budget, it also pays to remember that many of the recipes and foods we hold most dear, were born of seasonal eating and cooking in other parts of the world and other cultures. Everyone used to cook only using what was on hand. So sometimes it's a good exercise to experiment and change up an old favourite in that spirit of using what is available at the time.
This brings me to the dip I made on the weekend. I mentioned it here yesterday in my post on my value in the home.
I scored a huge bag, probably 3kg (6.6lbs) of eggplant (aubergine) at the fruit market last week. I adore these, and will eat one, grilled simply, topped with roasted tomato and a little parmesan, for lunch and dinner any day of the week. Alas my family take a little more convincing.
Now I don't know about your family, but mine will eat anything if it's in a dip, a pizza topping, or a lasagna. So it's not all bad.
In this particular instance, and having seen teeny weeny tubs of dip at the self same fruit market for $7.50, I was inspired to create this version of an old favourite, Baba Ghanoush...posh language for roasted eggplant dip with other stuff in it. My husband and daughter will eat Baba Ghanoush and in fact, ask for it. Tell them it's Eggplant Dip and you can forget it! You gotta laugh!
Pumpkins are also pretty inexpensive here just now, and I had the end of one leftover from the previous week, so while the eggplants were roasting, I decided to dice the remaining pumpkin and include that in the dip too. We'd kinda had enough of pumpkin for a bit.
Here's the result, and mighty tasty it is too.
You will need a food processor or blender for this. Alternatively you can mash the ingredients well, but you will finish with a much chunkier 'dip'. I only have a tiny benchtop food processor, so I process the vegetables and tahini in several batches, transferring it to a large bowl, then adding the other ingredients.
Mimi's Roasted Pumpkin and Eggplant Dip
Makes up to five 200gm (7oz) tubs of dip depending upon the size of the eggplants.
4 large eggplant
120gms (4ozs) peeled and diced pumpkin
3 tablespoons tahini
1 heaped teaspoon minced garlic or 3 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of one lemon, plus the juice of half the lemon
1 heaped teaspoon each of ground Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Smoked Paprika and Ginger
1/2 clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped roughly
NB: These individual spices can all be replaced by a commercial Moroccan Seasoning if you prefer and have it on hand. I make my own 'Moroccan Seasoning' from the ingredients mentioned.
Prepare several containers with lids into which to decant the dip when done.
Preheat the oven to 180C (375F).
Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on a lined baking tray.
Toss the diced pumpkin in the olive oil and spread that on another lined baking tray.
Bake the eggplant and pumpkin until soft and tender, about 20-35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel the skin from them, discarding it, and chop the flesh roughly.
Add the eggplant flesh, the pumpkin cubes, and the tahini, to the food processor bowl and pulse until minced, but still a little chunky. Remove to a large mixing bowl, and add the other ingredients, combining well with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Decant to tubs for storage. This keeps well in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
It will also freeze, but it's best to omit the sour cream/yoghurt and the fresh coriander, and add those ingredients when you defrost each portion. You may find you actually like it without the cream/yoghurt and fresh coriander and that's fine too.
Personally, I'm a shocker for adhering to the intended purpose of food stuffs, so even though I call this 'dip', I actually use it in many ways.
So far, we've eaten this as:
A topping on pan fried salmon
A filling for baked potatoes
A sauce for Rice noodle pasta, along with crushed pistachios and lemon wedges on the side
A spread for breakfast toast
A relish for burgers
A topping on Corn Thins with roasted capsicum
An alternative base to tomato paste on pizza
Don't be limited by what the ingredients 'are supposed to be' or what the intended use for a food is.
Use your imagination, and open up a whole new world of taste and texture sensations.
And experiment with seasonal produce. You might invent a new family favourite.