Monday, February 03, 2014

Ottolenghi eggplant fest

January 25, 2014

Cindy returned from a couple of weeks away keen to get back into the kitchen and eating some veggie heavy dishes. We turned, inevitably, to Ottolenghi and came up with a couple of recipes to fill up our Saturday. 

Both dishes involved roasting eggplants over an open flame, not something I'd ever been brave enough to try before. It turns out to be reasonably straightforward - get your gas burners going and pop the eggplant on top, turning it every few minutes to ensure that the whole thing gets charred. The skin will blacken and start to peel, but you really need to give it a good 20 minutes of cooking - I got worried about over-cooking with the first one and found that much of the flesh under the blackened skin had yet to really soften up. If you do it right, the filling comes out really soft and takes only a bit of mushing to turn into a smooth paste.

The first of the dishes was Ottolenghi's slightly fancy take on baba ganoush, a roasted eggplant dip with a dash of tahini and lots of big fresh flavours from the veggies, pomegranate and herbs. Once you've roasted the eggplant, this is just a simple 'stir everything together' recipe, and it's well worth the effort. We smeared it on fresh bread for a very satisfying lunch.

The second dish was dinner - a lentil and eggplant dish with Ottolenghi's usual load of veggies and herbs to keep things interesting. The star here was the eggplant. It's incredibly simple, just roasted to an almost liquid softness and seasoned with vinegar and heaps of salt and pepper, but the smokiness and hint of vinegary sharpness really shine. The lentil base is good too - make sure you don't overcook the cubed veggies, a bit of texture amidst the soft lentils is key. 

We continue to find treasures tucked away in Plenty - these are a couple more that we'll be returning to in future.

Burnt eggplant with tahini
(a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty)

1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced small
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
seeds from half a pomegranate
olive oil
salt and pepper

First up, roast the eggplant with the skin on. I talked a bit about how to do this above. Make sure you really blacken the skin and get the eggplant completely mushed. Halve the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Drain the flesh in a colander for fifteen minutes or so.

Once it's drained, chop it up a bit so that it starts to turn into a paste. Pop it into a mixing bowl and add the tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic and parsley and mix everything together well. 

Add the cucumber and tomatoes and stir them through. 

Season with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of the pomegranate seeds.

Lentils with grilled eggplant
(another recipe from Plenty, also available at The Guardian)

2 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
200g puy lentils
3 small carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
1 small white onion, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
salt and pepper
yoghurt for dolloping

Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Roast the eggplants over a gas stove. Once the skins are completely blackened and the flesh has collapsed into softness, slice them open and scoop the soft innards out into a colander. Leave them to drain for 15 minutes, and then sprinkle them a heaps of salt and pepper and half a teaspoon of the vinegar.

While you're roasting the eggplants, get the lentils sorted. Put them in a saucepan with plenty of water, plus one of the carrots and half of a celery stick (both cut into big chunks) along with the bay leaf, thyme and onion. Bring it to the boil and simmer on low heat for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are cooked.

Drain the lentils and remove the veggie chunks and herbs. In a mixing bowl, combine the drained lentils and the rest of the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.

Cut the leftover carrot and celery into 1cm cubes and combine with the tomatoes, a tablespoon of olive oil, sugar and salt. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes (if you time this right, you can have the veggies cooking while you simmer the lentils).

Add the cooked veggies, and the coriander, parsley and dill to the lentils and stir together. 

Serve by building a little pile of the lentil/veggie mix on a plate, topping it with a generous few blobs of the eggplant and then dolloping a few tablespoons of yoghurt and a drizzle of olive oil on top.


  1. Cooking your eggplant over flame is the key to so many eggplant dishes. These both look delicious

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Now that world of smoky eggplant is open to us. :-)

  2. I think I might need to adopt your photographic tip of covering my hob with tinfoil before attempting this. Given my astonishing ability to create disaster in the kitchen, I might just be safer using the oven, even if I lose the smoky nuances in the process.

    Timely recipes given how cheap eggplant are at the moment!

    1. Hi Eat to Live! We've had good experiences with oven-baked eggplant too. As an extra safety tip, facebooker Jess emphasised the importance of poking some air-holes in your eggplant to prevent a messy explosion.

    2. Oh yes, I'm aware of the hole-poking necessity. On the bright side, the sound of an exploding eggplant is possibly one of the funniest I have ever heard. One for the foley artists methinks.

    3. Ha! Now I feel like I'm missing out.

  3. Can't wait to try this out but shall probably use our BBQ. I don't think it would work too well on the electric stove!!

    1. Hi Unknown - I bet the barbecue would be great! All the more smokiness. :-)

  4. Eggplant is my absolute favourite vegetable, but I've never cooked it like this. I'm glad you included the picture, because I would never have figured out that you put it straight on the burner like that. I'd love to give this ago. Pomegranate seeds in dips are ace! I first had them at 1806 cocktail bar in Exhibition Street. They have pomegranate seeds in their hummous - lovely!

    1. Hi Lentil Institution! I love pomegranate seeds too, I still haven't perfected my technique for scooping them out of the fruit but I'm improving. :-)