Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ugh is for aubergines. Or is it?

Isn't there anything else to eat?

I've lost count of the times I've heard this reaction when I've told people we're having aubergines for dinner (if you're scrunching up your nose and wondering what aubergines are, you probably call them eggplant). It seems as though this plant - often served up brown and mushy - isn't the most loved in the veggie patch.

I'm on a mission to change this. I've got several aubergine recipes which have become hugely popular in my house and if you try them, I'm sure they will restore this vegetable to its rightful place up near the top of your list of favourite foods.

I'm sharing the first of those with you today. It's adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's fantastic cookbook of Middle Eastern inspired recipes 'Plenty'.

Serves 4
2 large and long aubergines
80ml olive oil
1 and a half tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish (I often substitute ordinary thyme here)
Dried pomegranate seeds (the original recipe asks for 1 whole pomegranate but when I couldn't find any in the shops, these were just as good. Crunchy too.)
Salt and black pepper

1 small bunch of coriander (about 10 sprigs)
1 small bunch of basil (about 10 sprigs)
Half of a red chilli
2 tbsp olive oil

140ml buttermilk
100g Greek yoghurt
1 and a half tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of salt

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C/Gas Mark 6/400 F.

  • Cut the aubergines in half lengthways.

  • Use a small, sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each aubergine half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond shape pattern.

  • Place the aubergine halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush them with olive oil. Keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed.

  • Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some salt and pepper.

  • Roast for 35-40 minutes, by which point the flesh should be soft and nicely browned.

  • While the aubergines are in the oven, pluck the leaves from the coriander and basil, chop the chilli roughly and place in a food processor. Slowly add the olive oil until you've got what resembles a spicy pesto. (If you don't have a food processor, you could chop the chilli into smaller dice and crush the pesto in a pestle and mortar.)

  • Next, you need to make the sauce. Whisk the buttermilk, yoghurt, crushed garlic, olive oil and salt together. Taste for seasoning.

  • Now, it's just a question of assembly. Spoon plenty of the buttermilk mixture over the aubergine halves. Sprinkle the pesto and pomegranate seeds over the top.

  • Serve this with crusty white bread, pitta or rice.

    Taste this once and you'll never say 'ugh' to aubergines again. That's a promise.

    1. Yum, in my new found appreciation of aubergine, I think I'll have to make this!

    2. I would totally recommend it. And seeing as you have his book, you could try making his version too. I wasn't able to get some of the ingredients and had to adapt. Za'atar isn't that easily found in Dingle, or even in Ireland!

    3. I'm not an eggplant (aubergine) fan, but I do buy them each year in the hopes of finding a way to make them that i will like. This year when they come into our farmers markets I'm gonna get some and make this. I think this will do the trick.

    4. Mandi, I think this is a great recipe and if you can get your hands on Ottolenghi's original (which uses fresh pomegranates and a Middle Eastern herb mix known as za'atar) it would probably be worth trying too.
      I'll also be posting more delicious eggplant recipes to win you over in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out.

      (This is Sharon, by the way. Blogger won't let me comment on my own posts because it's being annoying at the moment :-()

    5. One to try, sounds gorgeous. I love Aubergine, am trying to grow some this year. Had a couple in the polytunnel last year andit was so fab to have our own Aubergines.

    6. Bridget,
      It really is a great recipe - one of my favourites to have discovered this year. I hope you are successful in growing them. It would be great to have your own!

      (This is Sharon, by the way. I still can't log in to comment on my own posts! GRR!)