Besides Baba Ghanoush and Moussaka, I have always found it hard to put aubergines to good use. But with these aubergine meatballs I redeem myself. They are moist and bouncy and can be flavored in many ways.
They are also baked in stead of sautéed, which greatly reduces the use of oil. In fact, if you are trying to avoid oil all together you can easily sauté the onions and garlic in a little broth, water, or white wine, thereby completely eliminating any added oil.
Using Aubergines As A Base
Aubergines are not the first vegetable that comes to my mind when I’m thinking of something scrumptious and satisfying. This has to do with their bland, slightly tart flavor and even more boring texture. But that is also what makes aubergines the perfect base for these meatballs. Because on that moist blandness you can build your perfect flavor profile. And you can keep changing the flavors to match the rest of whatever meal you are putting together that day.
In the recipe below, by using preserved lemons, mint, and tahini, I have given these particular aubergine meatballs a hint of the Middle East. But you can just as well use inherently Mexican flavors, stick to all Italian herbs and spices, or go all in with whatever flavors take your fancy. When in doubt, experiment.
- 1 aubergine weighing 450 to 500 grams, diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
- 75 grams walnuts
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- A couple of tablespoons olives, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 medjool date, finely chopped optional
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1/4 preserved lemon, yellow rind only, rinsed and finely chopped Or zest from 1 lemon
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- A very large handful mixed fresh herbs, chopped. For this particular version I use a mix of coriander, basil, parsley, and mint.
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon miso paste optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-6 tablespoons brown rice flour, or flour of your choice
- Heat the oven to 180º C / 450º F and cover a baking tray with baking paper.
- In a frying pan, sauté the aubergine, onion, and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes. You can add a little water as you go if it starts to burn. Transfer the cooked veggie mix to a mixing bowl.
- Roughly chop the walnuts and add them to the bowl as well.
- Also add all the rest of the ingredients – except the rice flour.
- Using an immersion/hand blender, blend everything into a rough consistency. You still want a good amount of texture so don’t over blend it.
- Next, add rice flour as needed until you get a consistency that keeps its shape when shaped into balls. The mixture should be wet so don’t add flour until the stickiness goes away. Add just enough flour to keep it all together.
- Using your hands, shape the mixture into small balls and place them on the baking tray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through.