Who needs meat when you can schnitzel-ise eggplant so it's soft and almost creamy inside its crisp crumb coating? Inspired by Israeli cuisine's brilliant use of vegetables and magical accompaniments, this eggplant schnitty is served with labna – yoghurt drained overnight until it's like fresh cream cheese – and a tangy quick pickle of leeks. Serve with a simple tomato salad, tabbouleh or rocket leaves and grilled pita.
1kg natural yoghurt
3 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into 2cm slices
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper for seasoning
50g panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
vegetable oil for frying
1 tbsp nigella seeds
For the leek pickle
1 leek, well washed, trimmed and finely sliced
100ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp canned beetroot juice
1. To make the labna, line a fine sieve with two layers of rinsed muslin and place over a tall bowl. Fill with the yoghurt, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours until firm.
2. To pickle the leek, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and leeks in a small stainless steel pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Stir in the beetroot juice and set aside to cool.
3. Heat the oven to 200C. Mix the flour with cumin, salt and pepper. Mix the breadcrumbs with the parsley. Lightly press each eggplant slice in the flour, dip in the egg, and press into the crumbs until well-coated on both sides.
4. Heat one centimetre of vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat and fry eggplant for two minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake for 20 minutes, until tender. Serve with labna, pickled leeks and nigella seeds.