This is one of my absolute favourite ways of cooking aubergine, by cutting into the halved aubergines and seasoning liberally with olive oil, the centre of the aubergine becomes luxurious and custardy while the exterior develops a beautiful golden brown colour. Served on a complementary bed of bulgur wheat this simple vegetarian dinner is sure to be one to impress!
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 1 hour
Serves 2-3 people
INGREDIENTS 2 medium sized aubergines 200g bulgur wheat 1 tablespoon sumac 50g blanched peanuts 2 medium zucchini 2 cloves of garlic 3 sprigs of mint 2 spring onion 320ml water Olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
1. To prepare the aubergine, cut it in half through the centre of the stem and with a sharp knife, cutt a criss-cross pattern into the flesh, taking care not to pierce the skin. 3 vertical lines and 5-6 horizontal lines should be enough. Season well with salt and into the nooks and crannies you’ve created by cutting into the aubergine, drizzle well with olive oil (at least 2 tablespoons) and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place into an oven preheated to 180C and bake for 40 minutes or until tender and lightly coloured on top.
This method of cutting into the aubergine and saturating it with olive oil makes the flesh beautifully creamy once it’s cooked and gives a wonderful texture on the surface of the aubergine.
2. To steam the bulgur wheat, place the grains into a heatproof mixing bowl and season well with olive oil and salt. Rub the seasoning into the grains. Bring up 320ml of water to the boil and pour it over the bulgur. Immediately wrap with cling film or fasten an airtight lid onto the bowl and allow to steam for 15 minutes. After the time has elapsed, remove the cling film, fluff the bulgur gently with a fork and drain off any residual liquid by using a sieve or strainer if necessary.
3. For the peanuts, place them into a small mixing bowl and season well with salt, sumac and olive oil. Place onto a lined baking tray and place into an oven preheated to 160C. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature. Chop into small pieces and reserve in an airtight container.
4. For the vegetables, cut the zucchini into bite sized pieces, finely chop the mint and slice the spring onions on a bias, setting aside some of the green parts of the onion for garnish. Slice the garlic and reserve each ingredient separately.
5. Place a large frying pan over medium high heat, if the pan isn’t big enough to fit all of the zucchini in one layer then prepare to cook it in batches so it will colour better. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the pan and give it a minute to get hot. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped zucchini, stir to coat it in the oil and season with salt to taste. Don’t move the pan too frequently as we want the zucchini to colour well. Once browned nicely, reduce the heat to medium and create some space in the centre of the pan. Add the spring onion to the centre along with a few drops of olive oil if necessary and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant and stir to combine with the rest of the ingredients. Adjust the seasoning with salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar for acidity. Remove from the pan and pour over the steamed bulgur wheat. Add half of the sumac peanuts and incorporate into the bulgur salad.
6. To serve, arrange the bulgur salad onto a plate or serving dish and lay the roast aubergine halves on top as they come out of the oven. Drain off any excess oil and garnish with spring onion greens and sumac peanuts.