Smoky Eggplant Cashew Dip

Makes 2 cups
(No gluten, dairy, legumes*, cane sugar; with options for nightshades*)

Food advice can have fashions that may not be related to wisdom. For too long elegant, sleek eggplant has been subjected to the abuse of being peeled (and lose that colour-related beauty and antioxidants – shame!) and its flesh then salted (not necessary unless old and bitter – sigh). This vegetable is popular throughout the Mediterranean and Asia. There are thin ones, bulbous, tiny, hefty, purple and green varieties. A constant though is to buy one that is firm and sleek without the wrinkles that come to most with age.

Eggplant is low in calories, high in fibre and a good source of vitamin K, C, B1, B6, folate; and the minerals manganese, Magnesium and Potassium (see website TIPS articles). An optional ingredient is to use smoked salt such as from Pacific Harvest. This is available from gourmet and health stores. It offers a marvellous grunty accentuation to many dishes.

Serve this wonderfully thick and creamy dip as a snack or first course with corn chips, carrot slices or rice crackers. Or offer as a vegetarian main with one of my wonderful breads or savoury muffins, or with roast veg or salad tossed with added protein such as sheep feta, boiled eggs, grated tofu, cannellini or other legumes; cooked, tinned or smoked fish. For example, for a Mediterranean repast: serve with a satisfying carbohydrate such as roast veg, Multi Grain Bread or Sunflower Muffins; and a high antioxidant salad of tomato or cucumber, red onion, olives or figs, spinach or mesclun; and for added sustaining Protein (TIPS) cannellini beans, crumbled hard boiled egg, sardines or a tahini dressing.

1 large or 2 small firm eggplant (450 g/1 pound)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil*
1 large free range egg
3 Tbsp lemon juice or mild vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 tsp smoked salt or sea salt with kelp*
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil*
¼ cup cashews, chopped
1-3 tsp pickled jalapenos or pinch raw chilli (or lots of black pepper)

Cut off the top of the eggplant and discard. Slice eggplant into about 8 mm (1/3”) slices and cube – do not peel. In an oiled roasting pan toss with ¼ cup olive oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180ºC (350ºF) until completely soft and dark, but not browned.

In a food processor place the eggplant (and any juices), egg, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Puree briefly to leave some contrasting textures, especially the lovely dark flecks of skin. Stir in cashews and chilli, or briefly mix on low speed. Serve at room temperature or cover and chill. Keeps well.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Legumes: pod-bearing plants such as peas, beans, soy and lentils. Soak overnight and discard water to help eliminate an enzyme that can lead to poor digestion and gas. Add ample fresh water. Bring to a boil uncovered (watch for foaming; do not add salt as this slows cooking) until soft enough to squeeze between your fingers. They will almost triple in volume. See The Shape Diet for individual cooking times. Or buy cooked and tinned (Ceres and Delmaine brands in supermarkets have only salt, water). Cook extra and freeze, or chill and use within a week in fritters, casseroles, salads, soups, stews.

• Nightshades: another name for the solanaceae family of potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers (includes paprika, chilli). Some people cannot breakdown its solanine alkaloid (related to nicotine) affecting calcium metabolism, nerves, bones and joints (TIPS: Aches and Pains). To determine sensitivity obtain an allergy test from this office (TIPS: Why You May Be Allergic to the 21st Century).

• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.

• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest  or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

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