Ingredients:
  • 4 small eggplants, each about 3 1/2 ounces (100g)
  • 3 or 4 shiso leaves, finely shredded, optional
  • Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons pickled *plum paste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt

Method:
  1. Slice the eggplant lengthwise, then cut into bite-sized pieces and soak in water for about 5 minutes. Drain, and squeeze to remove excess liquid.
  2. To make the dressing, combine the pickled plum paste, lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and mix well.
  3. Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the eggplant, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Alternatively, fry the eggplant in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  4.  Arrange the eggplant on a serving plate, and drizzle with the dressing.
Garnish with shredded shiso.   

The plum paste is Umeboshi which isn't really a plum at all but rather closely related to the apricot. The pickled fruit is steeped in salt and has a very high salt content and salty flavour. For this reason any recipe using umeboshi should hold back on the salt until all is blended. Then seasoning adjustments can be made
Umeboshi is available as dried, semi-dried whole fruits and as a working paste. If you have the pickled fruit dried or semi-dried then simply mash it in a mortar adding small amounts of water or lime juice to create a suitably dense paste. It should be reasonably homogeneous but the wetness/dryness is not so important as it can be adjusted with varying amounts of other wet ingredients.
Commercial umeboshi is red in colour due to added akajiso (purple perilla) but often enhanced with other synthetic food colouring agents. Recent developments in the pickling have meant a lower salt level and a consequent need for artificial preservatives to extend shelf life.