Miso and eggplant – there are some food pairings that just work – and I think these two should definitely be served together to bring out the best in each other. I adore the way that miso adds a sweet yet savoury caramelisation to eggplant which, when roasted, turns soft and smoky. Wait until you try my recipe for a Miso Roasted Eggplant, Pumpkin and Soba Salad below. Queue the Homer Simpson drool!
As a whippersnapper I thought butter and Vegemite was the best food pairing on earth. I would sometimes eat it three times a day – spread together on warm white bread toast for breakfast, generously layered between Vita Wheat crackers squeezed together to make worms at morning tea time and smeared to the edges of flakey Sao biscuits for an after school snack.
Then a foodie friend who I trust wholeheartedly suggested I try Vegemite with avocado on toast. “Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it,” he said. So I did. I gingerly spread a restrained amount of the yeasty extract onto a slice of lightly toasted sourdough – sans butter – followed by a layer of thickly sliced avocado to mask any flavour failings. No ‘smashed avo’ here. It was the grown up version of my childhood favourite and it wasn’t half bad.
That got me to thinking about some other food pairings that I really enjoy. I came up with a lot of sandwich fillings – curried egg and lettuce, roast chicken and coleslaw, turkey and cranberry, ham and pickles and then I moved onto other more grown up foods and I came up with this list of food pairings that are important to me. I won’t call them my favourite pairings as I have probably skipped loads of blockbusters, but these ones are definitely classics. Let me know if I have missed any!
10 Food Pairings – Some Classics
- Bacon and Eggs
The salt and fat of the bacon matched with the richness of the eggs is a protein pairing made in heaven. All it needs is a squirt of your favourite sauce (Sri Racha please) for some added sweetness (and kick).
- Salt and Caramel
Salt is a flavour enhancer that brings out the sweetness of the caramel. Layering sweet and salty flavours together just keeps you coming back for more. Pass the icecream, now the pretzels, now the chocolate please!
- Tomato and Basil
Those Italians know flavour. The best salad in the world might just be be the Caprese. Thickly sliced, sun-ripened tomatoes assembled with sweet basil leaves around a centre of creamy buffalo mozzarella seasoned with salt and pepper and lashings of olive oil. Need I say more?
- Chicken and Peanut
I’ve got one word to say to you – well two actually – Chicken Satay. The bomb. Not on a pizza though.
- Blue Cheese and Pear
More sweet and salty flavours in this pairing but also great texture with al dente pear slices served as a ‘biscuit’ with a topping of crumbly blue cheese. The sweet pear helps soften the bite of the blue mould. Throw in some walnuts and honey too!
- Balsamic Vinegar and Strawberries
Who’d have thought? Not only do they look pretty together but the balsamic and the addition of a little sugar also enhances the strawberries’ sweet flavour. Apparently you can add black pepper too. I don’t know what effect it has on the strawberries, but if you do, can you let me know?
- Corn and Chilli
The addition of chopped chilli, chilli sauce or a chilli salt to fresh corn on the cob roasted on the barbeque balances the sweetness perfectly. These two also work wonders in a corn salsa, corn fritters with chopped chilli and chilli beef with corn.
- Ham and Cheese
The French were onto something here – this pair is best served together on a baguette, in an omelette, in a quiche or as a Croque Monsieur with an oozy béchamel.
- Salt and Vinegar
Ditch the chicken salt, you just cannot beat a shake or two of old school salt with a splash of vinegar on your hot chips from the fisho.
- Honey and Lemon
The classic sweet and sour combination! You can add the pair to a glass of water or a cup of tea, to a teacake or even to a savoury Chinese classic – Honey Lemon Chicken
Here’s a recipe for my latest favourite flavour pairing – Miso and Eggplant!
- 1 medium Eggplant
- 300g Pumpkin
- 200g frozen Edamame Beans
- 180g Soba Noodles
- 2 Shallots, sliced
- 1 tablespoon Rice Bran Oil
- 2 teaspoons Nigella Seeds
- 1 sheet Nori, toasted and shredded finely
- 3 tablespoons White Miso
- 2 tablespoons Mirin
- 1 tablespoon Caster Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Add the dressing ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine, ensuring the Miso and Sugar are well dissolved, and set aside.
- Cut the Eggplant into 2cm cubes and do the same with the Pumpkin. You can leave the skin on the Pumpkin if you like.
- Add the Eggplant and Pumpkin pieces to a baking dish lined with baking paper, pour over the rice bran oil, season with salt then toss to coat.
- Cook the Eggplant and Pumpkin in the oven for around 20 minutes.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour half of the dressing over the Eggplant and Pumpkin pieces. Toss to coat and return the dish to the oven for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the Eggplant and Pumpkin begin to caramelise.
- Meanwhile, cook the Edamame Beans in a saucepan of boiling, salted water for around 3 minutes. Rinse the beans under cold water and drain before slipping off the pods. Set the Beans aside.
- Cook the Soba Noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for two minutes before draining and refreshing under cold water.
- To assemble the salad mix the Soba Noodles, Edamame Beans and sliced Shallot with the remaining dressing and place on a large serving dish or in individual bowls.
- Arrange the Eggplant and Pumpkin pieces on top of the soba noodles.
- Garnish with the Nigella Seeds and shredded Nori.
- To toast the Nori place one sheet on a baking tray in a hot oven for 2 - 3 minutes. Allow the Nori to cool completely before shredding.