I used to worry about aubergines, that I wouldn’t get to eat enough in one season.
When I was growing up, everything at the market was seasonal, and therefore when it was gone, it was gone for yet another whole year. We preserved them by pickling in jars and making aubergine dips (my favourite) stacking the packs in the freezer. Just by seeing mum walking to the cupboard and taking out a jar or asking me to dice some onions, was enough to cause tremendous excitement. I knew what was coming.
You can probably sense that to me, it is more than just an ingredient. It comes with a bit of nostalgia. I’m not only longing to be back in that kitchen helping mum, but also missing the flavour of our local aubergines, grown in real gardens, in open air under the summer sun. No matter how I cook the ones that I find at my local market in the UK, even if I add tons of oil to bring the flavours up, they are not the same. Maybe I will never encounter those flavours of the past again, no matter where I search for them, even if I go back to my childhood home.
One trick is to actually cook them as quickly as possible, so that they retain the texture and release some flavour. These meatballs are a good example of that, and the recipe was born out of a mad rush to cook something quickly, because I was starving. Use your judgement to adjust the recipe. If the mixture is too tight or too loose, simply add oil or breadcrumbs to suit.
The recipe serves 6-8 people or 1 person who loves snacking.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions. Cook on a medium to high heat until they are translucent. Add the mushrooms and aubergines and cook until soft, around 10 min. Add more oil if necessary. When they are ready, set aside to cool completely, then transfer them to a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz to a rough paste. You will still be able to see pieces of aubergines in there. With wet hands, form into balls – their size is your choice.
Cover the bottom of your frying pan with a thin layer of oil and heat until hot. Place as many aubergine balls in the pan as you can and cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Make sure that they cook evenly by gently rolling them in the pan. Serve hot or cold, with a drizzle of yoghurt and a sprinkle of your favourite herbs.