Simon Wright of The French Cafe Moroccan Spiced Eggplant

To coincide with the release of Megan's new plant-based cookbook, Little Bird Goodness, Megan decided to challenge four of the most influential chefs and cooks in NZ to create a plant-based dish, in an effort to showcase just how easy and delicious plant-based cuisine can be, and how beneficial incorporating more plants into our diet can be for our health, and the planet.

Second up is Simon Wright from world renowned and award-winning The French Cafe, with his Moroccan inspired Eggplant & Chickpea Tajine. Try making the recipe yourself at home, or find it on The Unbakery Ponsonby menu until 15th September.

Want to get involved in Little Bird Organics plant-based challenge yourself? Post your own creation to Facebook or Instagram with #LittleBirdGoodness and #PlantBasedChallengeNZ anytime from now until 30th September for the chance to win several prizes generously donated by Air New Zealand, Pullman Auckland, The French Café, Meredith’s, Ceres Organics, Nadia Lim and Jordan Rondell. 

Moroccan Spiced Eggplant with Cauliflower Falafels, Coconut Yoghurt and Avocado Salad

Serves 6 

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C

Spiced Eggplant

2 medium sized eggplants

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 small onions, peeled and cut into large pieces

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced

1 large knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

Large pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 tsp fennel seeds

3 tsp freshly ground cumin

1 tsp of allspice

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp tomato paste

6 dates, stone removed and roughly chopped

400g cherry tomatoes, halved

200g cooked chickpeas

Cauliflower Falafels

200g cauliflower florets

200g cooked chickpeas

1 spring onion, finely sliced

2 cloves crushed garlic

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley

3 tbsp chickpea flour

Avocado Salad

1 cup mint leaves, washed

1 cup basil leaves, washed

1 cup coriander leaves, washed

2 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled and finely sliced

3 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 chip pomegranate seeds

Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil

To Finish

Coconut yoghurt

Chopped activated almonds

Freeze dried coconut

Method

To make the spiced eggplant, heat the coconut oil in a medium sized saucepan and cook the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli flakes until soft, then add the spices and continue to cook for 1 minute for the spices to release their flavour. Add the honey, and let it come to the boil and slightly caramelise. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chopped tomatoes, dates, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to break down slightly. Add 250mls water, bring the tomatoes to the boil before turning the heat down to low, and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, remove the ends of the eggplant, and cut into quarter’s length ways. Cut each quarter into 4 large pieces, and season with sea salt. Shallow fry the eggplant pieces in small batches with a generous amount of coconut oil, until golden brown. Drain and keep to one side.

Place the cooked eggplant, chickpeas and spiced tomato sauce into a tajine dish, gently mix together and cook in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.  

To make the cauliflower falafels, place all the ingredients except chickpea flour into a food processor, and process to a rough puree. You want the mixture to be smooth enough to hold together when cooking, but still course enough to give the fritters some texture. Place the cauliflower mixture into a bowl, add the chickpea flour and gently mix to combine. If the mixture seems too wet, add a little more chickpea flour. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture from the bowl and roll into balls using the palm of your hand, pressing each slightly to flatten. Place the cauliflower falafels onto a tray lined with baking paper. You should end up with about 18 falafels. Keep to one side until required.

Heat 2 tbsp of coconut oil in a frying pan, and cook the cauliflower fritters in batches for about a minute on each side, or until golden brown. Place the cauliflower fritters onto an oven tray lined with baking paper, and place in the oven for 5 minutes to finish cooking.

To make the avocado salad, place all ingredients into a large bowl, dress with the lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gently toss the salad together.

To serve, place a large spoon of the eggplant to one side of a bowl, followed by some avocado salad and coconut yoghurt side by side. Place 3 cauliflower fritters ontop, and finish with a sprinkle of chopped almonds and freeze dried coconut over the yoghurt and salad.  

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