I used to cook lots of Ottolenghi’s recipes after I bought his Jerusalem book (published 2012) but then turned my attention – as often happens – to new books I bought. However, I so much loved my visit to the Ottolenghi restaurant in Islington last Saturday that I vowed as I ate the delicious food that I would try to recreate some of it at home. One of my favourites there was an aubergine dish served with feta, yoghurt, pistachios, fried mint and Aleppo chilli. I looked through both Jerusalem and my older Ottolenghi the Cookbook (published 2008) and it’s in the latter I found the recipe I cooked tonight; not quite the same but similar enough and it sounded delicious. Ottolenghi suggests serving it as a starter and, as his restaurant is all about sharing plates, it could be part of a selection of dishes to share. I considered having it just as it is as a light supper but in the end griddled a chicken breast I had to go with it, marinating it first in a little olive oil and lemon juice with some dried oregano. Ottolenghi uses 3 aubergines in his recipe but at the last minute I decided to cook just one as there was only me to eat and since I’m out tomorrow I didn’t want lots of leftovers. However, I do have quite a bit of leftover dressing now, but it will keep in the fridge for 3 days or so and I can use it on something else. It also means I ended up being a little more generous with the pine nuts and pomegranate toppings than the original recipe but still had some over – so I’ve given quantities of 2-3 aubergines in the recipe. Another time if I’m just cooking for one, I’ll have the halve the measurements.
Roasted Aubergine with Saffron Yoghurt
- 2-3 aubergines, cut into wedges
- olive oil for brushing on the aubergine
- sea salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
- a handful of pomegranate seeds
- a few basil leaves
- a small pinch of saffron strands
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 180g Greek yoghurt
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2½ tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- a little sea salt
Make the Saffron Yoghurt first: put the saffron in the hot water and leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile measure out the other ingredients into a bowl. Add the saffron and whisk well together until you have a smooth dressing. Check seasoning.
Cover the dressing in clingfilm and put the bowl in the fridge to chill. Dry roast the pine nuts in a small pan until nicely brown. Set aside. Prepare the aubergine: cut into wedges. Try to get them a uniform size for cooking. Use a pastry brush to generously cover each wedge in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and put into a preheated oven at 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7 for between 20-35 minutes. It will depend a bit on the size of your wedges. Time for 20 minutes to start; mine then needed an extra 5 minutes. Allow to cool and serve at room temperate – not chilled.
While the aubergine cooks, prepare the pomegranate. Use just half. Put a sieve over a small bowl then use a rolling pin to bash the outside of the pomegranate to get the loosening of the seeds started. Once a few have popped out, you can then carefully break the pomegranate up and loosen out the rest of the seeds. Make sure none of the hard pith surrounding them goes into the sieve. Just drink any juice that collects at the bottom – it’s delicious and supposedly very good for you!
Now assemble it all together. Lay the aubergine on a plate, drizzle over a generous amount of the yoghurt dressing. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. Then scatter over a few basil leaves.
As I said, it would make a light supper dish with some nice bread but I griddled some chicken to go with it. It was perfect with the chicken – although lamb steak would be good too – and the yoghurt dressing was great with the chicken as well.
The aubergine would make a wonderful addition to a selection of mezze. It was different to the dish I had last Saturday but equally wonderful and I can see it becoming a favourite. We eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, often barbecuing kofte for instance, and the aubergine dish would be a great accompaniment along with salad and maybe some couscous, tabbouleh or freekeh.