Aubergines are at their best at the start of summer. Monica explains why she’s a big fan of this vibrant purple vegetable and shares a recipe for a beautiful roasted aubergine and tahini dip.
With the coming and going of solstice last Friday, it feels like summer has finally arrived, and so too has one of my favourite vegetables: the wondrous purple aubergine. I’ve been a huge fan of aubergine ever since I had my first ever aubergine parmigiana at Caputo’s, a family favourite (and sadly now gone) Italian restaurant in Chicago, when I was seven years old (credit to my parents for indoctrinating me to good food - and good restaurants - at a very early age). Ever since then I’ve loved aubergine and have always looked forward to summer when it’s at its best.
Aubergine parmigiana is a bit ambitious for day to day cooking, but fortunately I’ve stumbled upon a few ways with aubergine that are simple but just as delicious, making it possible to enjoy this vegetable on a more regular basis. They also have the benefits of not using excessive amounts of olive oil, as many aubergine recipes seem to do.
Baked aubergine is one of my favourites: slice the aubergine in half, slash the flesh and rub it with something tasty like pesto, salsa macha or chermoula. Even something as simple as olive oil, salt and pepper will do. Bake flesh-side up at 180C for 40 minutes or until the aubergine is absolutely soft. Turn this into a meal with simple sides like rocket salad, quinoa or bulgar wheat, a scatter of parsley or cilantro and a wedge of lemon.
By far the simplest way to deal with eggplant is to bake or grill it whole then scoop out the insides and turn it into something yummy like Indian baingan bhartha or my latest eggplant revelation: Moutabal. My friend Sharon (aka Genie Cooks) taught me how to make this Middle Eastern aubergine and tahini dip, very similar to baba ganoush. This is pure, creamy aubergine awesomeness, perfect for pita or flatbread and the kind of thing I want to eat all the time. Which is just as well because it’s extraordinarily easy to make:
4 tbsp tahini
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tsp table salt
Prick your aubergines all over with a fork to prevent them from exploding during cooking.
Cook the aubergines over a direct flame for about 20 minutes (or until soft) charring them on all sides. This gives the moutabal a wonderful smoky flavour.
Once the aubergines are cooked, leave them to cool for about 20 minutes.
Now peel the aubergines carefully and put the flesh into a mixing bowl. Make sure you remove as much of the charred skin as possible.
Add the tahini, yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice and salt and stir gently to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Spoon the moutabal into a serving dish, garnish with pomegranate seeds (optional), chopped fresh parsley and a little virgin olive oil. Serve with pitta bread. Can be eaten warm or cold.
Inspired? Visit Great British Chefs who many more aubergine recipes from some of Britain’s finest chefs.
What are your favourite simple aubergine recipes? Let us know here or over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.