Eggplant—The Philippine Way
IN SOME lands eggplants (or aubergines) are uncommon. In other countries they are so common that many find them uninteresting. That was how I felt until I tasted the Filipino favorite, rellenong talong (stuffed eggplant). Why don’t you try it too. It may change your opinion of this vegetable.
To prepare it you will need six medium-sized eggplants. Here in the Philippines eggplants are not as big as they are in some places. We use ones that are about 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 in.) long and 4 to 5 centimeters (1 1⁄2 to 2 in.) thick. Larger varieties can also be used if you cut them into thin slices. In addition to the eggplants, you will need 1⁄4 kilo (a half pound) of lean ground beef, six eggs, three cloves of garlic, one medium-sized onion and 45 milliliters (3 tbs) each of tomato sauce and cooking oil.
When you have collected all of that, wash the eggplants with the stems still on (this makes for easier handling later), then boil them together until they are tender. When they are cooked, remove the outer skins and set the eggplants aside while the other ingredients are prepared. (An alternative is to remove the skins at the start and just steam the eggplants until they are tender.)
To prepare the ground beef, first pound the garlic in a mortar and mince the onion. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan, and when it is hot, sauté the garlic and the onion with the ground beef. As it cooks add the tomato sauce. Also add salt and pepper to taste. All of this should be cooked until tender and dry and then set aside to cool.
Are you wondering what the eggs are for? They will serve as a batter so that the ground beef will stick to the eggplant. So now, beat the eggs together and mix half of them with the ground beef. Next, hold each boiled or steamed eggplant by the stem and flatten it with a fork to make a base for the ground beef. After you have done this to all of them, you are ready for the final step in your preparation.
Now you can proceed in different ways, depending on your equipment. If you have an oven, dip each of the flattened eggplants in the remainder of the beaten eggs and place them on a flat cooking sheet. Then, spread a thin layer of ground beef on top of each one, and bake it in the oven until it is firm and cooked. If you are using a griddle, the eggplant can be cooked right on top of it, much like a pancake. Or it can be cooked in an ordinary frying pan with a little oil. Serve the eggplant while it is hot, and be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Incidentally, some enjoy eating it with tomato catsup.
In these days of high prices for meat, you may find that this recipe will help stretch your food money while your family is nourished with wholesome food.