In praise of shiso – and eggplant.

My good friend sent me some home-grown shiso leaves along with a recipe for eggplant which I cooked the other day.  Shiso leaves aren’t available here where I live but I must search out a plant I can grow as it’s a wonderful herb. I’ve only ever used the tiny ones that are sold more as garnishes with raw fish dishes (perfect with sashimi) but I love their flavour and was interested in the eggplant recipe that made use of them.  

Shiso is a member of the mint family and has large teardrop-shaped leaves with serrated edges.  It comes in both a green and reddish purple form.  It’s also known as Japanese basil, perilla and beefsteak.

The original recipe doesn’t call for mushrooms but I couldn’t resist the large portobellos I spotted at the market and they go really well with the eggplant.   I served this with some basmati rice topped with wasabi furikake (seasoning).

Eggplant, goat’s curd, katsuobushi and sesame

Serves 4
3 eggplant (about 425gm each)
3 large portobello mushrooms
sea salt flakes
vegetable oil, for shallow-frying
1 tbsp each roasted black and white sesame seeds
3 radishes, thinly sliced into rounds on a mandolin
30gm goat’s curd
2 nori sheets, coarsely torn 
 
Soy marinade
125 ml (½ cup) light soy sauce
125 ml (½ cup) rice vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
To serve:
shiso leaves and katsuobushi*

 

Cut eggplant lengthways into 2.5cm-thick wedges, sprinkle with salt and stand in a colander for 10-15 minutes. Thickly slice mushrooms.

Meanwhile, for soy marinade, stir ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat just until sugar dissolves (2-3 minutes). Set aside.

Rinse salt from eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add some vegetable oil and shallow-fry eggplant in batches until golden-brown on both sides and tender (6-8 minutes), adding oil as necessary. Transfer eggplant to a bowl.  Add some more oil to the frying pan and saute mushrooms until golden but still firm.  Add to the eggplants and pour soy marinade over to marinate at room temperature (1 hour).

To serve, drain eggplant and mushrooms from the marinade and arrange on a serving platter, dot the goat’s curd around, scatter with sesame seeds, radish, nori sheets and shiso leaves and serve topped with the katsuobushi.

*Katsuobushi are bonito flakes, available at Japanese grocers.  

I couldn’t get any goat’s curd so I used some soft goat’s cheese instead.  Ditto with the Katsuobushi – I had some bonito seasoning that I use to make dashi stock and sprinkled that over the dish.  It may have not looked as pretty as in the recipe but it tasted sensational.  I also didn’t read the recipe properly and instead of tearing the nori I shredded them.  Oh well, next time I’ll know and plan in advance.

Nevertheless, I do encourage you to try this dish – it’s very easy to make and you won’t be able to stop eating it.

Good news:  I’ve just found an online seed place that sells shiso and have put in my order!