Monday, 17 August 2009

Aubergine purée and fried peppers

While looking through past posts I came across a terrible discovery: despite being named after them, aubergines have not featured once on this blog. Shock horror! I haven't eaten them all summer, with courgettes and broccoli taking over as vegetable of choice. Both of them have their charms, and I think broccoli is often underrated, but neither have the dark, sexy appeal or the versatility of the aubergine. This, of course, had to be swiftly remedied.

One quick shopping trip later I was ready to make aubergine purée/babaghanoush. I love this rough smoky purée as part of a mezze or stuffed into pitta with grilled lamb but today I wanted it to be the centre of attention, with some fried peppers on top for sweetness and colour.

I pricked the aubergine a few times to stop it exploding then left it under the grill for about 40 minutes, turning it every now and then, until it was charred and soft. Then I cut it in half, and scrapped the innards, seeds and all, into a sieve. Make sure you get the really dark flesh from next to the skin that has absorbed the taste of the charred skin, if you get a bit of skin as well that doesn’t matter. Roughly chop the flesh and leave it to drain for about 10 minutes.

At this point I sliced a red pepper and put it in a pan along with far too much olive oil, on a medium heat. Decant the strained aubergine goo into a bowl and beat with a fork until it's a fairly smooth paste. Add some oil to loosen it, and whatever seasonings appeal. I used a tiny clove of crushed garlic, a little salt and a squeeze of lemon, but sometimes add a pinch of chilli flakes or some tahini or yogurt as well. Tip the now soft and slightly charred peppers over the aubergine.

Good bread of some sort is essential with this; I had an olive fougasse (a flat bread from the south of France, slashed with a knife to give it several ‘arms’). If I was eating this with someone else I might serve some goats cheese or a nicely dressed salad with it. But for just me, eating it in the garden, it was perfect with a few plain leaves.

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