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Eggplant Cannelloni with Smoked Salt

July 5, 2014

Yummy hot or cold!

Yummy hot or cold!

In the olden days (pre-paleo) I used to make a pretty mean spinach and ricotta cannelloni. I would buy “instant cook” cannelloni shells and fill them with a basic mixture of ricotta and spinach, suffused with a little nutmeg. It was an easy, cheesy warming dish that the kids loved.

Nowadays, my “cheese dishes” involve lots of nuts and I thought that I would try an adaptation of this old favourite.

Eggplant makes a great “pasta” as it is soft and supple without breaking. It becomes tender when cooked with fat and has a rich but benign texture. Many people advise salting and rinsing eggplant to remove the bitter juices but modern eggplants have had the bitterness bred out and I usually never bother. Except for this recipe. Degorging will soften and ensure pliability so that when you wrap the filling it doesn’t break.

eggplantroll

I cut the slices to about 5mm thick – you can cut them a bit thicker if you like but you may need extra eggplant. As I have been making lots of kale salad, I have had an excess of kale stalks, so I chose to use these up in this recipe. I had some smoked salt in my pantry that I was wanting use and this recipe showcases the smokiness beautifully. A friend of mine has been smoking his own salmon and I asked him to throw in some Celtic salt and garlic to experiment. There are some beautiful flavoured salts available now and smoked salt is delightful. On research I found a recipe for doing your own here.

eggplantroll3

In terms of nuts: feel free to use cashews in your mix, they will give you a creamier texture. I purposely used a mix to give a rounded flavour.  Walnuts make a robust addition but they can be overpowering if you use too many. I like a filling with a bit of texture so I removed about a quarter of the mix halfway through and mixed it in at the end with the kale. I serve these cannelloni on their own with some salad, but they would be very happy steamed with a light tomato sauce. If serving without, a salsa verde or even my goddess dressing would make a nice accompaniment. They are just as good served cold on an antipasto plate.

1 large eggplant (about 350g)
2 cloves garlic
30g olive oil + more to fry
3 spring onions, chopped
40g kale stalks, chopped
1 kale leaf, chopped
1 tab each of chopped parsley and fresh dill
3 strips of lemon rind
100g mixed raw nuts, soaked in water over night (I used macadamias, almonds & walnuts)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teas salt – I used smoked salt – or more to taste
1 tab nutritional yeast
50g warm water
10g olive oil
 
First, slice the eggplant length wise into 5 mm slices and sprinkle with salt to release some water. Pat dry and pan fry in plenty of olive oil until golden  on both sides. Set aside.
 
Line a Varoma tray with a piece of baking paper, allowing some gaps for the steam to penetrate. Set aside.
 
Chop the garlic on SP 8 for 8 seconds. Add the spring onions & kale and press turbo to chop finely. Add 30g oil and saute on SP 1, VAROMA temp for 5 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
 
Without washing the bowl, add the drained & rinsed nuts, lemon rind and salt and mill on SP 9 for 20 seconds. Scrape down halfway if required. Add the nutritional yeast, water and 10g oil and continue to blend on SP 8 for a minute, scraping down halfway. The mix will be quite stiff, depending on the nuts you use. Add the kale & onion mix and herbs and mix on REVERSE SP 1 to combine. 
 
To assemble:
Lay out a slice of eggplant with the narrow end toward you and place a heaped tablespoon of nut mix at the base. Roll up and set aside on a Varoma tray,  seam down.
 
Steam the cannelloni for 15 minutes over 300g hot water until warmed through. You could serve this with a tomato sauce – but I don’t think it needs it! I just served mine with salad..
 
You could also use char-grilled capsicum with the filling too.
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