Aubergines with buttermilk sauce & pomegranate seeds

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I absolutely love aubergines: big shiny purple or the white ones perfectly illustrating why they are also called eggplant, small green or tiny pea-sized aubergines from Asia, long & slender Middle Eastern varieties. The almost meaty flesh is the epitome of savoury when fried, grilled or roasted, creamy and satisfyingly unctuous it melts on the tongue and offers itself as a worthy partner to almost anything from other vegetables (Ratatouille to name but one), lamb or feta or chicken, chillies and coconut or stands proudly on its own when charred for Baba Ganoush – any recipe featuring aubergines is my friend, especially when a meatless dish is called for.

My aubergine guru is Ottolenghi, who seldom lets me down and these divine aubergines with za’atar, a tangy yoghurt-buttermilk sauce & pomegranate kernels guarantee you plenty layers of flavour. One half is a perfect starter, two halves are my favourite lunch or a vegetarian main course with a side of salad and I’m making this once a week now since they were part of my Ottolenghi spread in Mid-December. It was the most revered dish of the night with the butternut squash coming in a close second (counting the female votes, the other fraction, I think were firmly set on the we-can’t-have-only-vegetables-requested-by-my-panicked-husband meatballs, surprise, surprise).

 

eggplant

Since, I have reduced the oil content by half without much compromise on flavour (not to make them less rich or skimp on extra virgin olive oil but who has time to wait for these suckers to be literally satisfied when you could have them 20 minutes earlier?) and added more lemony sharpness with some sumach. They are an absolute cinch to prepare in advance when a tray of aubergines can go into the oven at anytime and the cooled aubergines patiently await their dousing and decorating. I keep the sauce in a jam jar in the fridge, pomegranate kernels are collected in a pretty container and lunch, dinner or supper is ready in a matter of minutes.

More aubergines: aubergine involtini with tomato confit & goats cheese, burnt aubergine & tahini dip, Caponata alla Siciliana

Eat these with: Ottolenghi’s baby spinach salad with dates, almonds & crispy flatbread or falafelCitrus-spiced salmon, lamb tagine with black garlic,

 

Ottolenghi's aubergine with buttermilk sauce & pomegranate seeds


Aubergine with buttermilk sauce & pomegranate seeds

Serves 4 as a main course (with a side) or 6-8 as a starter. Adapted with a few liberties taken from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.

 

4 aubergines (eggplants)
olive oil (about 80ml; Ottolenghi uses double the amount but I was equally happy with much less)
a few sprigs of thyme, plus a few extra leaves to decorate
salt & pepper
4 pinches (½ teaspoon) sumach
2 teaspoons za’atar
seeds from ½ pomegranate
olive oil

Sauce
140ml buttermilk
100g Greek yoghurt
1½ tablespoon olive oil
½ or a very small garlic clove, pressed, grated, crushed or very finely minced
salt

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F) and slice the aubergines in half right through to the stalk. Diagonally cut into the flesh (without piercing the skin) in a crisscross pattern and place them into an ovenproof dish or onto a baking sheet. Brush the olive oil into the flesh several times until it is absorbed. Scatter with thyme leaves and season with salt & pepper. Bake for 45 minutes until browned nicely but not dried out. Leave to cool completely.

Mix all ingredients for the tangy sauce and deseed the pomegranate. Arrange the aubergine halves on a platter or large plate and dollop generously with the yoghurt-buttermilk sauce. Sprinkle with za’atar and sumach, followed by pomegranate seeds. Finish with a few more thyme leaves and a final drizzle of olive oil.

 

Deseeding a pomegranate? A fashionable method is to halve the fruit and over a bowl, whack it all over with a wooden spoon to collect the seeds in the bowl. That never works for me, I get leathery membrane parts, the whole kitchen including me is covered in ruby red juice spatter worthy of early CSI episodes. Alternative: break the halved fruit with your hands in segments and with saintly patience peel out the seeds like counting pearls on a string or moving beets on an Abakus.

What to do with the rest? Scatter over muesli or fruit salad in the morning, toss into your lunch / supper salad or bake more aubergines.

 

 

 

Hier ist das Rezept auf DEUTSCH:

Aubergine with buttermilk sauce & pomegranate seeds


Gebackene Aubergine mit Buttermilchsauce & Granatapfelkernen

Für 4 Personen als Hauptgericht (mit Beilagen) oder 6-8 als Vorspeise oder als Teil eines Mezze-Büffets. Mit einigen Freiheiten nach Yotam Ottolenghis Plenty (deutscher Titel: Genussvoll Vegetarisch.

 

4 Auberginen
Olivenöl (ca. 80ml; Ottolenghi benutzt das Doppelte, ich bin auch mit weniger glücklich) + ein paar Tropfen
einige Zweige Thymian, mit einigen Blättchen extra zum Servieren
Salz & Pfeffer
4 Prisen (½ TL) Sumach
2 TL Za’atar
Samen von ½ Granatapfel

Sauce
140ml Buttermilch
100g Griechischer Joghurt
1½ EL Olivenöl
1 sehr kleine Knoblauchzehen, gepresst, gerieben, zerquetscht oder fein gehackt
Salz

 

Backofen auf 200°C vorheizen und die Auberginen halbieren (auch den dekorativen Stil). Das Fleisch kreuzweise einschneiden: 3-4 diagonale Schnitte in jede Richtung, dabei unbedingt darauf achten nicht die Haut zu durchstechen. Auf der Hautseite in eine ofenfeste Form bzw. auf ein Backblech legen und die Schnittfläche wiederholt mit Olivenöl bepinseln bis es eingezogen ist, mit Thymianblättchen bestreuen, salzen & pfeffern. Ca. 45 Minuten backen bis die Auberginen gebräunt aber nicht ausgetrocknet sind. Komplett abkühlen lassen.

Alle Zutaten für die Sauce vermischen und die Samen aus dem Granatapfel herauslösen (s.u. für Methode). Ausgekühlte Auberginenhälften auf eine Platte oder einzelne Teller legen und großzügig mit der Joghurt-Buttermilchsauce beträufeln. Za’atar & Sumach auf die weiße Sauce rieseln lassen, Granatapfelkerne und Thymianblättchen darüber streuen und zum Schluß mit ein paar Tropfen Olivenöl versehen.

 

Granatapfelkerne auslösen? Eine beinahe berühmte Methode ist einen halbierten Granatapfel mit der Schnittfläche nach unten über eine Schüssel zu halten und die Oberseite mit einem Holzlöffel so fest zu schlagen bis alle Kerne aus der Frucht in die Schüssel fallen. Das klappt bei mir nie so besonders gut: der Saft spritzt trotz aller Vorsicht überall hin und hinterlässt Spuren die ein Forensikteam in hellste Aufregung versetzen würde, ich treffe öfter meine Hand und außer den Kernen landen meistens auch Partikel der harten Membrane in der Schüssel, die dann mühsamst wieder herausgefischt werden müssen. Alternative: Ich breche die Granatapfelhälfte in einzelne Stücke und „zähle“ mit meinen Fingern die Kerne heraus genauso wie man einzelne Perlen auf einer Kette abzählt. Dann das ncähste Segment bearbeiten und wieder die Kerne mit dem Zeigefinger herauslösen. So erhält man intakte Samen und keine Fragmente der ledernen Membran.

Was wird aus den restlichen Kernen? morgens ins Müsli oder den Obstsalat, mittags in den Salat. Oder schnell noch mehr Auberginen backen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Aubergines with buttermilk sauce & pomegranate seeds

    • Yes, I hear you, it is so hard to stop at two halves! I always make sure to have a side dish or salad to have another vegetable, flavour and texture as company. Looking forward to the weekend and catch up with things, have a wonderful weekend too. N xx

  1. How could I have missed this? That wretched half-term throws me off every time.

    Lovely recipe and a total agreement about the oil. For some reason he advocates large quantities in his books but not in his restaurants, go figure. Find we have must have some strange link as we both went for purple and then pomegranate in our respective blogs almost simultaneously. Nah, probably not. More likely, these are wonderful foods, both to eat and look at 🙂 Keep the great foods coming! Jxx

    • Jeanette, I think you were a bit busy munching all those fish cakes… Strange about the oil, I agree, they really do not need that amount. Of course, you have the benefit of instant comparison – we need to talk. Plus, I am not particularly worried about using generous quantities of the extra vergine but ways to impatient to wait until aubergines get satiated with it. Thanks and same to you, I am always looking forward to yours, too! N xx

      • Yes, do think the fish cakes went to my head… Let me know next time you’re in London and we can both investigate the oil. Had the privilege of filming Yotam and Sami about a year ago, have a look if you’re interested https://vimeo.com/76038213
        Was drooling most of the time, stuck with my camera 🙂 did manage a meal afterwards though!

      • I am drooling, too, hope you told them about the oil…Just learned, that my shakshuka is Greek since I use olive oil.
        With pleasure, we will research the oil situation thoroughly, I am so looking forward to that but surely we’ll meet before when we are back in Somerset!

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