Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt

Charred Aubergine Dip

I’ve just come back from Puglia in the south of Italy with a group of friends. It was a cycling trip where we essentially cycled our bikes, swam in the azure seas and cycled some more until we were hungry, then proceeded to eat and drink an awful lot. The food there is so earnest and simple. They have access to some of the most incredible ingredients in the world because of their amazing climate, so they’re only interested in basic cooking to elevate the natural flavours. I’m really in to that.

Back in London we are in the midsts of this weird Summer vibe where it seems that the general en-mass willing of summer not to be over *just* yet has resulted in some pretty warm october nights. This dip is something I prepared as part of a romantic picnic in the summer solstice, so it seems only fitting to revisit it again with the warm hazy glow of Puglia and my own Londonian attempts to squeeze the very last of summer out. It’s simple and delicious.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt (Serves 2-4):
1 large aubergine
70g tahini paste
60 ml water
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 generous squeeze of a lemon
1 garlic clove - crushed
3 mini cucumbers - diced
seeds from half a pomegranate
3 tbsp parsley - roughly chopped
2-3 generous dollops of greek yogurt
a drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

On a gas hob, place the aubergine directly onto a medium flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently. The flesh should end up soft and smoky with the skin burnt all over. Alternatively, if you haven’t got gas hobs, crank up that oven high, 200°C maybe, and whack your aubergine in and keep turning it in that heat. 20-40 minutes in, the skin should also char and the aubergine should sag telling you the flesh is all lovely and soft. On a similar warning to my last aubergine post: Poke a couple of holes near the stem part of the aubergine to stop it exploding in the oven.

Once your aubergine is done, transfer all that lovely soft flesh into a medium mixing bowl. To this add the tahini, molasses, water, lemon juice, garlic, cucumber, parsley, paprika, yogurt, half the pomegranate seeds and some salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Drizzle with olive oil and the rest of the pomegranate seeds to finish. Eat!

Vietnamese Grilled Aubergine with Nouc Cham Sauce

vietnamese grilled aubergineIt’s been too hot in my flat. So all I want to cook of late is dips, salads and wraps. Oh Vietnamese food, you have so many dishes I adore under this category…

Aubergines are in season and this dish is one of my favourite and simplest dishes to rustle up with said veg. But mostly its the delicious nouc cham that I love, so crack open an empty jam jar and make a load of this addictive sauce.

Nouc Cham Sauce:
100 ml fish sauce
100 ml of water
125 g brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic - minced
4 bird's eye chillies - deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 carrot - finely shredded

Mix up the fish sauce, sugar and water. Add to this the garlic, chilli, lime juice and shredded carrot. Thoroughly stir it all up and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Now you’re ready to grill your aubergine.

Grilled  Aubergine:
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp nouc cham sauce
Handful of peanuts - toasted
1 tbsp spring onions - finely chopped
Some coriander to garnish

Get the grill on high. Pierce your aubergine near the leafy bits a could of time to stop the Exploding Aubergine from happening (this has happened to me twice…I had to scrape the oven clean of the perfectly cooked bits of veggie shrapnel). Put the whole aubergine in whole and just keep an eye on it, turn it ever so often and the skin doesn’t burn beyond the nice charred flavour. Depending on your oven and grill it should take about 20-40 minutes. If you want to can oven roast it first at around 200°C then finish it off on the grill. Once it soft and sagging you’re ready!

Place the aubergine on a dish and slice it open. Add to this the nouc cham sauce, the toasted peanuts, coriander and spring onions.

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