Moutabal

I think most non-meat eaters love eating aubergine. It’s such a versatile vegetable. This moutabal is a blend of aubergine, tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon. All the good stuff. It doesn’t look great but as Lumiere says in Beauty and the Beast – ‘try the grey stuff – it’s delicious’. The recipe was in Nigel Slater’s book ‘Tender’. Nigel Slater was a chef at Claridges who now is a food writer. His book has a chapter on each kind of vegetable that he’s grown in his own garden. I had the moutabal with a feta salad and some pitta bread but it would work great as a paste on a sandwich or dip for crudités or pitta chips.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line a baking tray

2.) Place the aubergines on the tray and make a few slits in the skin

3.) Bake for forty minutes – the skin should be blackened which will help give the dip the smoky flavour

4.) Peel the garlic cloves and chop finely (or use 1/4 tsp garlic paste)

5.) Let the aubergines cool for 10 minutes so they are not too hot to handle.

6.) Peel the skin from the aubergines and transfer them to a bowl

7.) Mash them up to a pulp with a fork

8.) Add the tahini, garlic and olive oil and stir until combined.

Black garlic roasted Aubergine

As promised, I’ve had a stab at Ottenlenghi’s famous aubergine with black garlic from his Nopi cookbook. This didn’t disappoint. It was just a shame that I wasn’t in Nopi enjoying the cosy ambiance with a surprisingly good glass of Slovakian white wine. I found the black garlic in Waitrose which is an upscale supermarket chain in the UK. It turns black as a result of fermentation over many weeks and becomes sticky, black and caramelised. I’ve since learnt that you can ferment your own garlic using a slow cooker so I might give that a go. I look forward to trying it in a risotto, ramen and even bread.

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 3 aubergines
  • 70ml olive oil
  • 75g plain yoghurt
  • 5g basil
  • 10g pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
  • 25g black garlic (about 7 cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp harissa (spice or paste)
  • 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cocoa powder (I used all mine up in my Tiramisu bombe so I subbed it with cacao nibs)
  • 25ml olive oil

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Slice the aubergine lengthways and widthways and then each quarter into 3cm wide slices.

3.) Measure out the 70ml olive oil into a mixing bowl and add the aubergine.

4.) Add some salt and pepper and mix until the aubergine slices are coated

5.) Spread out the aubergine slices on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes when the oven is ready.

6.) In the meantime, in a pan lightly toast the pine nuts until golden brown and set aside in a bowl.

7.) Make the dressing in a blender – add the garlic, 25ml olive oil, harissa, cocoa, chilli, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and blitz. Alternatively, mash up the garlic in a pestle and mortar, move to a container and whisk with the other ingredients.

8.) Once the aubergine is done, put back in the mixing bowl, add the dressing and gently mix

9.) Let rest for an hour to cool to room temperature and soak up the flavours.

10.) Just before it’s done, chop up the basil.

11.) Spread some yoghurt on the serving plates, lay across the aubergine and sprinkle with the pine nuts and basil to serve.

Aubergine Cheesecake

January was finally over last week and I had a celebratory gin (or two) as opening a bottle of wine on a Monday night seemed far too dangerous. Probably the reduced boozing has done wonders for my reading challenge (30 books this time) as I would normally fall asleep within 5 minutes of reading after a couple of drinks. At the moment, I’m reading The Silk Roads – covering the lesser known (at least for me) history of the Eastern part of the world. It seems particularly apt as I’m being such a fangirl of the Israeli chef Ottonlenghi this week!

This is the first time I made this aubergine cheesecake from ‘Plenty More’ though it had been on my to-do list for a while. It was worth the wait and is probably one I’ll roll out to impress guests. It’s really delicious cooled down to room temperature straight from the oven, or cold from the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 60ml olive oil + 1 tbsp
  • 2 aubergines
  • 150g feta
  • 150g cream cheese (I used light Philadelphia)
  • 3 eggs
  • 60ml double cream
  • 150g plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (or fresh if you have it, I can never find this)
  • 1.5 tsp za’atar
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C

2.) Line a large baking tray

3.) Slice up the aubergine (about 5 slices per aubergine)

4.) Measure out the 60 ml oil and brush onto the aubergine. I turned the pieces round to try and get it all absorbed.

5.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper

6.) Bake for 40 minutes.

7.) In the meantime, start preparing the cheesecake filling.

8.) Measure out 60ml double cream into a container and add the 150g cream cheese and break in the eggs.

9.) Crumble up the 150g feta and stir this in. Grind in a bit of black pepper.

10.) When the aubergine is done, turn the oven down to 170 degrees C.

11.) Line an oven proof baking tray with the aubergines, careful as they’ll be very hot, my tray had about a 15cm radius.

12.) Sprinkle half the oregano onto the aubergine and dot with the plum tomatoes

13.) Pour over the cream cheese filling and top with the remaining oregano.

14.) Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until set (per recipe). In fact, mine took over 50 minutes as I had quite a deep tray.

15.) Once the cheesecake has cooled down, brush with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle over the za’atar

16.) Leave to cool to room temperature and serve.

Baked Aubergine

Another weekend over and back to work. Weekends seem to pass so slowly and quickly at the same time. How have you been spending yours? On Friday I participated (minimally) in a virtual escape room breaking out of a Texan prison. 2 hours of puzzle-solving later and I was completely mentally exhausted.

It was Burns night last night and I hope that those of you who celebrated Burns’ night yesterday didn’t come out of it with too much of a hangover. I just learnt today that apparently 25th January is also St Dwynden’s Day – Wales’ own Valentines’ Day. St Dwynden was a Welsh princess that was unlucky in love. As a result she became a nun but hoped for others to be more lucky than her! As Burns would say:

‘As fair are thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry’

Tonight I made an aubergine bake. I took this recipe from Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries’. If you’re not familiar with Nigel Slater, he’s a famous chef in Britain who writes his cookbooks in the style of a diary with seasonal recipes. He’s very articulate and has also written an autobiography which I highly recommend.

I’ve changed his recipe a little, I find that when you pan fry aubergines you end up using lots of oil and it’s just easier to bake them. I used dried breadcrumbs rather than bread, a punnet of cherry tomatoes in place of one tin chopped tomatoes and I also added in some veggie bacon as I had some to use up.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tin butter beans
  • 2 aubergines
  • 4 rashers vegetarian bacon
  • 2 onions
  • 1 carton passata
  • 1 punnet plum tomatoes
  • 3 stems rosemary
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 30g parmesan
  • 1 lemon
  • Spray oil/extra olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line a baking tray

2.) Chop up the aubergines into thin slices and spread out on the baking tray

3.) Spray with oil and sprinkle over salt and pepper

4.) Bake for 25 minutes.

5.) In the meantime, peel and chop the onions and fry in oil until soft.

6.) While these are frying, add 2/3 the oregano, strip the leaves from the rosemary, dice finely and also add 2/3

7.) Chop up the bacon and fry for a couple of minutes.

8.) Peel and chop the 2 cloves of garlic and add one to the onions.

9.) Cook for one minute and add the plum tomatoes, a bit of salt and about 100ml water, Turn up the heat to break down the tomatoes.

10.) Once broken down, add the passata. Drain the tin of beans and and chuck in the pan. Cook for a couple more minutes.

11.) Line a pie dish with the aubergines

12.) Pour the tomatoes into the pie dish and put in the oven to bake for 45 minutes.

13.) In the meantime, mix up the breadcrumb topping. Grate the parmesan and zest the lemon. Try not to get the white bit (the pith) as this will make it taste bitter.

14.) Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining oregano, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and parmesan and stir through the 1.5 tbsp olive oil.

15.) Once the aubergine is ready, top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for a further 5 – 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden.