In my twenties, and before I had children, I used to travel a fair amount. Sometimes I would travel to a place to live and work, and other times I would be on holiday. However, my type of travel is not the rush-around-and-see-as-many-tourist-attractions-as-possible type of travel. Instead I chose a number of places to visit, then I settle in and absorb the culture.
Feta Rolled Eggplant with Roasted Tomato Sauce
Roasted Tomato Sauce
- approx 1kg tomatoes I used a combo of homegrown sweet cherry and Roma tomatoes
- [OR: 400g can whole peeled tomatoes]
- 1 small red onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- salt and pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggplant cut lengthways into 5mm slices (approx. 14-16 slices)
- 100 g feta crumbled
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- zest of one lemon
- cracked pepper to taste
- torn basil leaves and grated Parmesan to serve
- Preheat the oven 200C.
- Roasted Tomato Sauce: Put the tomatoes into a shallow roasting dish, cutting the larger tomatoes into wedges. Add the chopped onions and garlic and season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to combine and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes.
- Rolled Eggplant: Brush the eggplant slices generously with olive oil and season. Grill the eggplant on a hot BBQ plate until golden on both sides and softened for rolling. Don't overcook or they will become mushy. Alternatively roast on a tray in the oven in a single layer for about 30 minutes or until softened.
- In a bowl combine the feta, oregano, lemon zest and pepper. Mash together with a fork to make a smooth-ish paste adding olive oil to loosen. The paste needs to be spreadable but not runny.
- Once the eggplant is grilled cool a little for easy handling. Lay the slices on a board and spread evenly with the feta mix. Roll up tightly. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and use a wooden spoon to mash them up a little, then push to the edges of the dish. Arrange the rolled eggplant snugly into the centre of the dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Garnish with torn basil and serve with grated Parmesan. Accompany with salad and fresh bread drizzled with olive oil.
That includes rising early to visit local food markets when it is bustling with activity. And venturing down (safe) alleyways to find the hole-in-the-wall places where the locals eat. Many times it was the food that drove me to travel. To experience the flavours and smells is my way to truly ’embrace’ the place I am visiting. I would be-friend locals and get invited into their homes to share a meal, often the best meals I ate on my travels.
One of my most memorable eating experiences was a three-week holiday to the small Greek Island of Paros. As we are at the height of our harvest in the Southern Hemisphere, my travels to Paros have been fresh in my mind recently. Although I visited in winter (a very good idea considering the population swells from 12,000 locals in the off-season to over 100,000 holiday makers in the summer months) the climate is very mild so tomatoes and other summer produce can be grown all year around.
The food was exceptional; fresh, simple flavours, cooked with love and experience. Food is their life and the Greeks live to eat. Food for the local Greek’s on this island, and for many of the remoter cultures I visited, is their soul purpose for living. Their whole life revolves around growing, sourcing and producing food to sustain themselves and their families – so why not make it taste great while you are at it. The gnarled old olive groves produce freshly pressed oil year after year, and every estate (homestead) has a small vineyard to make their own house wine. Fig trees, citrus tress, all manner of fruit trees grow everywhere.
I am unsure if the recipe that follows is a traditional Greek dish, possibly more Italian (similar to the classic involtini). However, it is the type of dish I imagine eating if I visited one of the local tavernas where the menu is created daily using what is fresh and abundant. To make it a complete meal we served the rolled eggplant with salad, and slices of fresh bread and local olive oil.