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Eggplant "Meatballs"

I first made these “meatballs” as a vegetarian addition to my Spanish tapas Christmas Eve feast. Everyone adored them and asked me for the recipe! It is based on a newspaper article I read citing the book My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino as the reference.  It is therefore an Italian recipe rather than Spanish yet blended so well into my tapas feast. I especially like the boiling of the eggplant rather than frying- much healthier and easier to cook.
Serve as part of a banquet meal, or with a tomato sauce as per the Meatballs recipe, over pasta or rice etc.

1 large eggplant up to 500g, cut into large cubes
1 tbsp salt
100g breadcrumbs from day old bread – not dried
30g pecorino cheese, grated
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp parsley or oregano, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large handful dried breadcrumbs
Oil for frying – I like to use extra light olive oil
Pepper for seasoning

Bring a large pot of water to the boil with the salt, add the eggplant. Boil, uncovered, until soft, making sure to keep pushing and moving the eggplant around to keep it submerged.  This will take around 10 minutes. Drain in colander and push all the excess water out as much as you can. Once cooled chop finely – it will be very soft and easy to mash at this stage.

Combine the eggplant in a bowl with the day old breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, herbs, garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add more breadcrumbs if mixture still seems too wet.

Roll mixture in little balls the size of a walnut and set on a tray – roll in the dried breadcrumbs, then place back on a tray to place in the fridge to firm up for at least ½ hour. You can make them in advance at this stage.

In a large fry pan, pour in the oil to come up the side of the pan a little, once the oil is medium hot, add the eggplant balls – they should sizzle straight away, if not the oil is not hot enough - turn once browned on each side to crisp all over.

Place in a dish to serve. You can reheat them in the oven if cooked in advance – just place in an oven proof dish in a moderate oven for a few minutes.

Makes at least 30 balls