Pork, Eggplant & Bitter Melon Hotpot

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Recently Mark Sisson blogged about 4 foods that have medicinal benefits, and I was surprised to discover bitter melon among them. Growing up, bitter melon made an occasional appearance at dinner and it was not one of my favourite dishes, although it did have an astringent quality to it which was interesting and peculiar. After my recent attempt I must say it wasn’t so bad was delicious and I couldn’t detect any bitterness.

According to some studies, bitter melon has anti-diabetic properties and can help improve insulin sensitivity. Given that bitter melon is in season now, do you need any other reason to throw some in your basket and give it a try.

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Pork, Eggplant and Bitter Melon Hotpot

  • 2 tsp macadamia oil or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small eggplant or half large eggplant, chopped
  • 1 bitter melon (or 2 if you are really keen), seeds and inner pith remove, sliced 5mm thick
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamari sauce or coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Paleo XO sauce, optional
  • 1 cup chicken stock or bone broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • Chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Method
Fry onion in oil until softened. Add mince, garlic, eggplant, bitter melon, fish sauce, tamari, sesame oil, XO sauce and stock and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes or until eggplant is soft and completely cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt if required, and pepper. Add tapioca roux and stir well. Bring to boil, then turn off heat. Sprinkle with chopped coriander. Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice.

I found there was no need to blanche or salt the bitter melon as some recipes suggest, as there was very little bitterness remaining after the braising.

Smoky Spiced Eggplant and Capsicum Bhurta

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One of the podcasts I loved to listen to was Vinnie Tortorich’s show ‘The Angriest Trainer’. It has, bar none, the best opening theme of any podcast I’ve heard. Whoever thought to include the horse sound effect is a genius. The irreverent Angriest Trainer, “trainer to the stars”, doesn’t eat sugar or grains and characterises himself as a carnivorous vegan, because his diet includes loads of vegetables and meat. Contrary to what mass media would have you believe, there is a huge emphasis on non-starchy vegetables among paleo eaters, because vegetables are nutrient-dense and satiating and everyone agrees that it is a good thing to eat more vegetables.

Today’s recipe is inspired by the eggplants which are bountiful at the moment. I prefer the round eggplants rather than the long thin variety which I have sometimes found to be bitter and seedy. A bhurta is a lightly fried mixture of mashed vegetables. This eggplant version goes very nicely with lamb dishes.

Smoky Eggplant and Capsicum Bhurta

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants (aubergines), cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 red capsicum, halved and deseeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2cm knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • parsley, coriander or basil, finely chopped, to serve

Line a large baking tray with foil. Brush with 1T of olive oil. Place the eggplants and capsicum on the tray – skin side up – and cook under the grill (broiler) for about 20-25 minutes until the flesh is soft and the skin is charred. Depending on the size of your eggplants, they may need more time than the capsicum. They need to be cooked until very soft.

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Allow eggplants to cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Peel the skin off the capsicum and discard skin. Chop the eggplants and capsicum roughly.

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Heat the remaining 1T olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, tomatoes, spices, eggplant, capsicum, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley, coriander or basil.