I love walking through the market and seeing the variety of beautiful, purple coloured aubergines? (French for eggplant.)
I can always imagine the smell of it, when it gets roasted over an open flame and just about taste the smokiness of the eggplant. Aubergines, apparently, originated from India and plays a leading role in the culinary world of the Middle East.
I would have thought that Aubergines were always part of the food scene, but in fact, it was only introduced in the seventh and eighth centuries. The Arabs fell in love with
Aubergines when they conquered Iran in the seventh century. Therefore, the adopted Old Persian name, al badin-gan, pronounced al-badinjan.
Aubergines spread through the Middle East and North Africa and became a staple food, commonly referred to as the “poor man’s meat”. In Iran it is called “poor man’s caviar”.
In Turkey, where it is considered to be the king of vegetables, it is called “patlican”. Turkish cuisine has 200 different dishes containing aubergines.
I would like to share a recipe that I developed and fell in love with –
Aubergines cooked whole over an open flame! It has a sharp, smoky flavour that blends amazingly well with yogurt and olive oil.
My take on this Middle Eastern Aubergine dish…
To make the dish, mix the following ingredients together in a bowl:
1 large chopped smoked aubergine
3 tablespoons full fat Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon flaky smoked salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 glove finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon sumac – optional
Sumac is the dark red berry of the shrub “Rhus coriaria” which is dried and then called sumac. The dried berries are brick-red, tinged with purple with a lemony, woody taste. Sumac was used long before lemons arrived in the Middle East and this was used as the souring agent in their food.
Serve your burnt aubergine with a combination of the seeds of half a pomegranate and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves (use extra basil leaves as garnish).
Enjoy with flatbread.
I really do believe that you will love this quick and easy dish, just as much as I do.
Chef’s tip: If you had a barbeque, and you have some aubergines, put them on the dying embers of the charcoal fire and leave to smoke overnight. Ready to be used the next morning.