Aubergine adventures at a surprisingly good restaurant in Malaga
So we’d arrived in Malaga for a conference, but, feeling euphorically guilty, we decided to play truant and skive off for the evening for a deliciously elicit dîner à deux, the sort of shared naughtiness only achievable after thirty years of marriage!
The Chief Taster wanted to find a simple restaurant serving Spanish food. And it was proving difficult. Having scoured, virtually, the centre of Malaga, and failing to find anything inspiring, he extended his search. “I may have found something!” he finally announced triumphantly, waving his tablet like Moses, and showing me the details of a restaurant majoring on bacalao (because we’d arrived, unsuspecting, at the beginning of Semana Santa). I have a rather ambivalent feeling about bacalao. Like Marmite it’s one of those things you tend to either love or hate; and I lean ever more strongly towards dislike.
We set off, the faithful sat nav guiding us through suburbs and industrial estates. But when we finally ‘reached our destination’ it was firmly shut.
However, we had, with difficulty, found a parking space. And having shoe-horned ourselves into it with consummate skill (not mine) it seemed a travesty to relinquish it.
This was when I spotted El Balate. At first glance it was not promising. There was one lone diner. A large children’s play area promised potential shrieks, screams, and sobs. But it was now past nine. In we went.
Often the best meals happen when you least expect them.
We had a huge plate of salumeria, with some manchego cheese; some juicy gambas al ajillo; a plate of calamari; and then these fabulous crispy aubergines with miel de caña.
We tried these aubergines later in Baeza, where they were cut into chubby chip shapes – and not nearly as good.
If you can’t find miel de caña (which is not honey but syrup made from sugar cane grown in the area around Malaga) use molasses which is pretty much the same. Alternatively you can use a Pedro Ximénez reduction or liquid caramel, or, less successfully a bitter honey, such as chestnut honey.
El Balate is at Calle Lope de Rueda 236, 29190 Málaga. +34 952 10 05 92. They don’t seem to have a website.
At Benares in London they used to serve a different version of this, substituting the flour to coat the aubergines with fine, dried breadcrumbs seasoned with coriander or fennel seeds; and replacing the miel de caña with truffle honey.
Recipe for berenjenas fritas con miel de caña; or crispy fried aubergines with molasses
Serves a maximum of 4
• 2 aubergines
• 3 tbsps miel de caña – or molasses, or a reduction of Pedro Ximénez
• 5 tbsps plain flour
• sunflower oil
• 1 tbsp salt
1. Slice the aubergines as thinly as you can (I used a potato peeler).
2. Get plenty of oil good and hot in a deep frying pan.
3. Mix the salt into the flour.
4. Coat the aubergine slices in the flour. Fry in batches until crispy, draining them on kitchen paper as they come out of the pan – keep warm.