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Eggplant Involtini with Millet, Feta & Pine Nuts

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Although commonly used as birdseed, millet was widely consumed in Asia, Africa and Europe in ancient times. Millet can be prepared a number of ways; a porridge for breakfast, salad tossed with other vegetables, mixed into baked goods, and as an alternative to rice, potatoes and even couscous. Here, light and fluffy millet is tossed with generous amounts of chopped herbs and studded with sultanas, pine nuts and crumbled feta. This salad is so good it can hold its own or be served together with grilled meats or cubes of marinated tofu. Wrapped in thin slices of grilled eggplant and served with yogurt sauce, pomegranate, a herb salad and a drizzle of good cold-pressed olive oil, these involtini will make an elegant entrée for your next dinner party. For a hot and comforting dinner, serve these eggplant involtini along with a rich tomato sauce and perhaps some extra cheese. This dish is so complete with textures and flavours that it will not fail to satisfy a discerning vegetarian, or one who is new to the game.

Ingredients for Eggplant

3 large Italian eggplants, sliced 5 mm thick lengthwise

1 cup millet

2 1/2 cups filtered water

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp yogurt

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped mint

100 gram feta cheese, crumbled

4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Salt and pepper to season

Olive oil to brush eggplant slices

Ingredients for Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tinned tomatoes (400g)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp molasses sugar

1 cup filtered water

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Garnish (optional)

Crisp basil leaves, rocket salad, yogurt and pomegranate seeds

Method for Involtini

1. In a saucepan, toast millet for 3 – 5 minutes over low heat. Do not allow to colour.

2. Add water, salt and butter to the millet, stir and allow to come to a boil.

3. Lower heat to a gentle simmer and cover saucepan with a tight-fitted lid.

4. Continue to cook for 5 – 8 minutes or until water appears to have been absorbed by the millet completely, then turn off the heat.

5. Allow to stand for 20 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

6. Once the millet has cooled to room temperature, add chopped herbs, feta cheese, pine nuts and yogurt, and fluff together. Set aside.

7. Meanwhile, preheat a heavy grill pan over medium high heat.

8. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on one side.

9. Place on the very hot grill and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes on each side to get grill marks. Do not overcook the eggplant; they will be difficult to work with if overcooked.

10. Place a spoonful of the millet filling on the wider end of each eggplant slice.

11. Roll the slices and place them seam side down on a baking tray.

12. Set aside and reheat in a preheated 180°C oven when ready to serve.

Method for Tomato Sauce

1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and sweat celery, onion and garlic until soft, but without colouring.

2. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and oregano and continue to cook for another three minutes on medium low heat.

3. Add tinned tomatoes along with water and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Using an immersion blender, pulse to obtain a chunky puree.

5. Keep warm.

Final Assembly

1. Place a ladle of tomato sauce on a warm dinner plate.

2. Place three eggplant involtini on top of the sauce and top with fresh rocket leaves tossed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or, crisp basil leaves.

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