Vegetable Risotto with Caramelised Eggplant

Serves 4

A simple yet glamorous vegetarian dish that uses fresh vegetables to their best advantage. You can serve this depending on your mood or occasion. Serve the risotto in a bowl topped with the caramelised eggplant as a comforting meal or stack (using an egg ring) and garnish with Bitton Coriander Pesto for a drop-dead gorgeous dinner party dish.

Ingredients

For the caramelised eggplant:

1 medium eggplant

1/2 bunch thyme, leaves finely chopped

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped

200 ml balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar plus an extra

2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon sea salt

Pinch of white pepper

100 ml oil

For the vegetable risotto:

500 ml good quality vegetable stock

50 g butter

50 ml olive oil

1 white onion, finely diced

1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped

200 g arborio rice

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1/2 celery stalk, diced

Method

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).

To make the caramelised eggplant, slice the eggplant into 1 cm thick rounds. Score the flesh with a sharp knife. Salt well and place in a colander for about an hour. Remove from colander and drain off any excess liquid.

Rinse the eggplant slices and set aside. In a large metal bowl combine the thyme, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of sugar, salt and white pepper. Pour in the oil in a slow, thin stream whisking continuously. When all the oil is added, dip the eggplant slices into the oil mix and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Sprinkle with the extra two tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the eggplant is golden brown and caramelised around the edges. Remove from oven, set aside and keep warm.

To make the vegetable risotto, heat vegetable stock in a saucepan. In a heavy-based deep frying pan, melt the butter and add the oil over gentle heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the onion is soft. Add the rice and raise the heat to moderate. Stir to ensure rice is evenly coated with butter and oil and begins to look slightly translucent. Add the diced carrot, celery and leek and cook until they are slightly softened. Add the wine while continuously stirring the rice and the vegetables.

When the wine is absorbed by the rice, add a ladleful of hot stock. Turn down the heat to a high simmer. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next one. This will take about 20 minutes.

Taste the rice to see if it is cooked. Continue adding the stock until the rice is al dente — the rice is soft with a slight firmness or bite to it. Check the seasoning. Stir through parmesan, baby spinach leaves, corn kernels, tomatoes and zucchini.

To serve, place one caramelised eggplant round on each serving plate, top with a couple of spoonfuls of risotto, then place another eggplant round on top. Drizzle the Bitton Coriander Pesto or your favourite pesto around the outside of the stack and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.