Sorry, I’ve been neglecting you, I know. I’ve been on holiday, see, and then it was my birthday, so while I’ve done an inordinate amount of eating, my kitchen has not seen much action of late. (There’s also been several days’ worth of MasterChef to catch up on and an endless mountain of post-holiday ironing.)
So here’s a recipe from the archives which I didn’t get round to posting when I last cooked it (in truth it was another one of those recipes I submitted to The Guardian which they again rejected (harrumph) but don’t let that put you off because it’s really rather good.)
I’ve only recently come round to the charms of the aubergine. For many years it was firmly in the top 10 of my most hated foods (I say 10, but the list probably isn’t that long because I am a gannet and will eat almost anything). I always found the flesh too much like damp marshmallow (they’re on the list too), the skin too tough, and hated that explosion of oil you would inevitably get in your mouth when you bit into a piece that had been fried. I love a bit of extra virgin as much as the next person, just not to drink.
I have come to learn that the way to deal with the aubergine is to show it who’s boss. It will thirstily drink up every last drop of oil you offer it and demand more still, but don’t be tempted to give in to its desperate pleas. Just say no. Then show it some serious heat, or, in the words of my dear friend N, from whom I nicked this recipe idea, ‘cook the fuck out of it’.
Be mean to the ‘gine and you will be rewarded with a perfect combination of caramelised skin without and creamy flesh within.
Burnt aubergine with tahini yogurt sauce
Serves 2-3 as a light lunch with flatbread, or 4 as a side alongside grilled meat (v.g. with lamb) or fish or as part of a mezze. This tastes best at room temperature.
- 2 large aubergines cut into 1 inch cubes
- 6 banana shallots, peeled and cut in half lengthways
- 3 cloves of garlic smashed under flat blade of knife
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 level tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp Turkish chilli flakes or 1/2 tsp regular chilli flakes (optional)
- salt and pepper
- toasted pine nuts, chopped flat leaf parsley and pomegranate seeds to garnish
For the sauce
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp full fat Greek yogurt
- juice of half a lemon
- 1-2 tbsp water to loosen
- scant scraping of crushed garlic (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 200° C (fan). Put the aubergine, shallots and garlic on a large baking tray (or use two if the pieces don’t fit in on one level). Mix the spices with 3 tablespoons of oil and drizzle over the aubergine. Toss with your hands to make sure everything is well covered – if it seems a bit dry add another tablespoon of oil but bear in mind that the aubergine will absorb any liquid you throw at it so don’t overdo the oil otherwise the end dish will be greasy. Season generously and bake in the oven for 45 mins, turning a couple of times throughout until the aubergine is caramelised but soft in the middle. Discard garlic and allow to cool.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together, adding more water to thin if necessary – you want the consistency of normal yogurt (you could omit the yogurt for a vegan version, but use less water). Put the aubergines and shallots in a bowl, drizzle over the sauce and scatter over a handful of toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.