Inspiration is a crazy thing.
One day I have no clue what to cook or write for this blog. On another I have ideas piling up.
Inspiration for this blog and the recipe for Malijano came when I went to a local International Food Market (South Bay’ers: go there!) to do the groceries for a cooking demo I was about to give that night. Besides the things on my shopping list, I also needed an idea for a small dish to demonstrate while my pilaf (not this one) was getting ready on the stove.
I came from my other job, I was tired and hungry. Usually not good mood to get inspired, but I had to give it a go. When I drove up the parking lot I noticed a bakery and stepped in for a small bite to be my late late lunch, early dinner and hungry cure. It was around 4 pm.
In the counter I saw some pastry and I asked for one. Just one? Yes, just one please. In the corner of my eye I saw the strangest bread. Long, tongue shaped (as one of my students later that night called it) and very thin, hanging on hooks against the wall.*
I had found an idea for my ‘small-but not so small’ dish.
The man behind the counter explained me that this was a Sangak, a tradional Persian unleavened bread that they cook all day long. Unfortunately not that afternoon, due to oven cleaning.
I guess I have to go back soon to see them in action baking the bread. And buy another piece of that creamy pastry and ask for the name of it. It cured my hangry-ness and my lack of inspiration.
Nextdoor in the produce store I looked for ideas for a spread. It had to be a simple one, with easy to get ingredients that I can make without fancy tools as I didn’t bring those with me.
Baba ganoush obviously came to mind (here’s my version of this famous Middle Eastern spread), but I didn’t want to buy another jar of tahini, as I had just bought one for another class. I like the sesame paste, but 2 jars in my fridge will last forever.
My eye fell on a jar with Malijano written on it. I had never heard of it and looked on the back for the ingredients list.
Eggplant. Green pepper. Mustard. Garlic and oil.
I can make a spread with that!
So yes, I seriously was considering to make – in a cooking class – a recipe that I not only had never made before, never had tasted before, but also I never even had heard of before.
I loved the idea!
My class loved it too.
I roasted the eggplant, peeled of the bell pepper’s skin and together we added garlic, mustard, oil, salt and pepper until we liked it. It’s fresh. A bit sharp due to the mustard. Bright. And it made us feel like we were sitting outside sipping wine and dipping malijano on a hot summer’s night.
At home, the only information I found about the Malijano eggplant spread was the Va Va Company’s website. Turns out they make all kinds of vegetable spreads, and vegetable and fruit based dishes without strange additives. Cool! After some emails back and forth I found out that Malijano is a very common spread in Macedonia. Or is it Malidjano? I only could find a jar with the same ingredients but named Malidjano on VaVa’s website.
Below you can find my recipe for Malijano or Malidjano.
You can thank me later for introducing it to you! 😉
* Here’s the picture of the sangak Persian bread that I posted on Instagram. It’s a rare selfie as that’s the only way I could think of how to show you how big it is!
Malijano / Malidjano
The first day the mustard will overpower maybe a little too much, but the next day it’s a nice fresh spread that’s great on hot summer days.
2 T olive oil
1 green bell pepper
1 clove garlic
1,5 t mustard
salt + pepper
Prepare the veggies. Half the eggplant, rub the cut side with olive oil and put it cut side down on a sheet pan (lined with parchment paper for easier clean up). Pinch the eggplant halves a few times with a knife or fork. Lay the green bell pepper and garlic clove next to it. Put the tray in the oven and turn it on at 400 F | 200 C. Yep, no need to preheat here.
Roast the veggies, turning the bell pepper every now and then, until the eggplants are completely soft and the bell pepper is blistered. Remove from the oven and put the bell pepper in a plastic bag.
Clean the veggies. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and press the garlic flesh out of their skin. Peel off the skin from the bell pepper too. Mince the bell pepper finely.
Oh, and don’t discard any of the juices!
Mix all (vegetables and any of the juices that they had let go) in a bowl with a fork. Mix in the mustard, salt, and if needed, enough oil to make a smooth spread.
Dip a piece of Sangak, or any other nice bread, in it.