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Harissa-roasted aubergines

Updated: Sep 5

with Pickled lemon and pine nut salsa and a plant-based rouille


The aubergine’s spongy, pallid flesh is such a disappointment compared to its smooth, glossy outer wear! It is an exotic looking vegetable, its deep purple skin promising wealth and wonder, which sadly does not materialise unless it is carefully and considerately cooked. Choose its partners with care however and the dreary interior can be transformed into true gastronomic pleasure.


Its Chinese or Indian origins make it a natural partner to traditional Asian ingredients like spices, coconut, sesame, hoisin and black or yellow bean sauces, but it is equally at home in the Mediterranean, with olive oil, garlic, onions, coriander/cilantro, mint, basil and parsley. Although its flavour is not pronounced, however you cook it, it is very distinctive and can take some fairly strong companions as in the recipe below where it is teamed up with a spicy, garlicky Provençal rouille and a Moroccan-inspired pickled lemon salsa.

Rouille is traditionally made as a mayonnaise thickened with bread and flavoured with garlic and saffron, along with various other additions depending on the cook: cayenne pepper, roasted tomatoes, roasted peppers, even potatoes. My rouille is plant-powered, starting off with cashew nuts and finished with roasted peppers and a good kick of smoked paprika which is available in many supermarkets or you can get an excellent organic one from Steenbergs of Yorkshire who also stock organic harissa.

HARISSA-ROASTED AUBERGINES/EGGPLANT WITH PINE NUT AND PICKLED LEMON SALSA and PLANT-POWERED ROUILLE

Serves 2 as a lunch dish, 4 as part of a mezze selection

2 medium aubergines/eggplant

100 ml/3 1/2 fl oz/scant 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

15 ml/1 tbsp harissa powder or to taste - available from many supermarkets or from Steenbergs of Yorkshire

7.5 ml/1 1/2 tsp fine sea or Himalayan salt

For the salsa

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

25 g/1 oz red onions, peeled and finely chopped

½ a prepared pickled lemon, finely chopped

10 g/1/3 oz fresh coriander/cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped

1 fat red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

45 ml/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

25 g/1 oz pine nuts, toasted

Fine sea or Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the rouille

100 g/4 oz raw cashew nuts, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, rinsed and well drained

1 large red pepper, about 250 g, grilled - or use a jar of grilled peppers, well drained

2 garlic cloves, peeled

120 ml/8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

5 ml/1 tsp smoked paprika, or to taste - available from many supermarkets or from Steenbergs of Yorkshire

10 ml/2 tsp smooth Dijon mustard

15 ml/1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Fine sea or Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the cashew nuts for the rouille.

Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/gas4/fan oven 160oC. Cut the aubergines into quarters lengthways and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking tray.

In a cup, mix the olive oil, harissa and salt. Brush the flesh of the aubergines liberally with the spicy mixture and place in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, brushing with more harissa oil every 10 minutes, until soft and golden.

While the aubergines are cooking, combine all the salsa ingredients in a bowl. Check the seasoning.

For the rouille, skin the pepper, discard the stem and seeds and place in a small food processor with the drained cashews and all the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Check the seasoning.

Arrange the aubergines on a warm serving dish or on individual warm plates. Spoon over the rouille followed by the salsa.

Serve immediately, offering the remaining rouille and salsa separately.

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