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 Continue reading

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Caponata alla Siciliana

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Recipe in German at the end of the post / Deutsches Rezept im Anschluß.

Caponata seems to have enjoyed its own revival in recent years and is best enjoyed at room temperature which makes it a perfect prep-in-advance thing where its ingredients also benefit from a little more lingering. Fantastically versatile – excellent party fare, a great starter or appetizer, perfectly light but satisfying summer lunch, a side bursting with flavour or a nice autumn supper – this is an even more splendid end of summer dish.

Using the ripest aubergines and tastiest tomatoes, it embodies and transfigures all of summer’s lusciousness and warmth that is even more emphasized by the holy Sicilian agrodolce (sweet & sour) trinity: vinegar, raisins, pine nuts – a delicious result of the many Moorish influences on the Mediterranean cuisine, art & culture. No wonder, that moorish is also a synonym for everything utterly tasteful. Continue reading

Burnt aubergine & tahini dip

Aubergine dip by the james kitchen
Aubergine dip, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

This is a lovely dip and a variation of a classic middle-eastern aubergine dip. I have seen it speckled with pomegranate seeds in Ottolenghi’s Plenty but left out the cucumber and tomatoes since we had lots of those in the tabouleh on the side. Both were a fitting company for grilled rosemary & thyme marinated lamb chops. This will be a good contender on any mezze plate, served as appetizers or party dips with warm flat bread from the wood oven.

Oh, by the way: I have worked a bit on the About page and added a Larder.

Burnt aubergine & tahini dip
adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

1 large or 2 smaller aubergines (eggplant)
2 tablespoons (70g) of tahini (sesame paste), adjust to your taste
60ml (1/4 cup) water
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses / syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, grated
1 handful of parsley, chopped

pomegranate seeds
olive oil
salt & pepper & piment d’espelette for spice

Pierce the aubergines with a knife (this way they will not burst) and bake in a hot oven or under the grill for about an hour. Normally I will just squeeze them into the oven while I am baking or roasting something else. Or, you can burn them over your gas stove holding the aubergine with tongs, although I find that a bit tedious and did this: just place them on a barbecue, turning them around until you get that lovely charred outside.

Scoop out the flesh and leave in a colander to drain for about ½ hour. Whisk the tahini and water in a big enough bowl until you get a smooth paste and add the chopped aubergine along with all the other ingredients (reserve the pomegranate seeds, olive oil). Test the seasonings, you might want to add more lemon, salt, pepper or piment d’espelette.
To serve, sprinkle with some pomegranate seeds and drizzle with a little oil.

Aubergine involtini

Aubergine involtini by the james kitchen
Aubergine involtini, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.
 
 
I loved these little involtini which were only supposed to be a starter when I had made them for the first time out of leftovers and larder (pantry) treasures. I did like them so much in fact that I ate them all for supper and ditched the main course altogether. The sauce here was a Concassée de tomates aux olives confites – a jar which I had brought back from France and had awaited patiently in the larder to be used. Well, now the jar is empty and gone (so has the shop where it was from) I would just use a simple long simmered tomato sauce with a few added olices.
 
 
Aubergine involtini

1 or 2 Aubergine, cut in 5mm slices lenghtwise

olive oil

1 Chavroux goats cheese or any fresh goats cream cheese

chervil, tarragon, parsley, basil, chives

salt, pepper

tomato sauce (recipe follows)

Heat a griddle pan and brush the aubergine slices with a little olive oil and grill from both sides. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.
Chop the herbs and mix with the cheese, season to taste.
Place a dollop of the herb-cheese mixture at the end of an aubergine slice and roll tightly. Tuck the end underneath and place each one on a plate. Place a small amount of tomato sauce on top.
 
 
quick tomato & olive sauce
olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small garlic clove, chopped
a few black olives, chopped
1 small tin of chopped tomatoes
sea salt, pepper, sugar
 
Pour a little bit of olive oil into a sauce pan and add the onion, leaving it to soften over medium to low heat. Stir from time to time until the onion has turned translucent and glossy. Add the garlic and black olives to soften as well. Pour in the tomatoes and season with a pinch of sugar, pepper and only a little bit of salt. Let it simmer while stirring occasionally for quite a while until the sauce has thickened considerably. It should not be too runny. Check for seasoning.