I’m suspicious of anyone who says they don’t like aubergine. Not only because I love aubergine. But because this is such a versatile ingredient that can be prepared in such incredibly different ways. It’s nearly mathematically impossible not to find an aubergine dish to like.
Of course, not everyone is as curious about food as I am, nor should I expect people to be. I suspect most aubergine non-lovers haven’t eaten a well-prepared aubergine. Because, while there isn’t much that is more rewarding than an exquisitely prepared aubergine, a badly prepared one really isn’t worth eating. And there are a few pitfalls which sends the aubergine down the latter category.
Not cooking it for long enough, for example, leaving it chewy, with a slightly bitter taste and altogether unappetising. Or leaving too much of the skin on. The skin can be both bitter and chewy and, while some like it, others despise it. And too many are too stingy with the olive oil, worrying about the number of calories going into the preparation, leaving the end result dry and lacking in flavour (unless, of course, you are grilling or roasting the fruit whole).
None of that in this dish, where the aubergine is roasted with a good amount of olive oil until incredibly soft and flavoursome, then topped with a fresh but earthy green tahini sauce. And some tomatoes and pine nuts, adding freshness, acidity and a little crunch.
Aubergine with green tahini sauce is a very simply dish to make, but it still packs a bunch of flavour. The aubergines need barely any preparation before you allow the oven to take care of the rest. But don’t skip the point of cutting into the flesh in a criss-cross pattern. It not only makes the aubergine look prettier – it also makes it cook more even and gives plenty of space for the green tahini sauce to penetrate the flesh. While the aubergine is roasting, all you need to do is whip together four ingredients with a stick blender (or, indeed a normal blender or a kitchen machine), chop a couple of tomatoes and gently toast some pine nuts. And then, once the aubergine is out of the oven and has cooled a little, all you need to do is assemble.
This works well as a starter or part of a selection of mezes, not least because it can be prepared ahead (though I’d leave assembly until the last minute). It also works well as a main dish with some carbs on the side and perhaps a green salad too. Yields four aubergine halves, serving 2-4.
- 2 medium aubergine (400-500 g total), halved lenghtwise
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil
- 50 g tahini
- 50 ml water
- 10 g fresh coriander (without thick stalks) or another herb such as flat-leaf parsley (again, without thick stalks)
- 1+1 tbsp (15+15 ml) lemon juice
- 1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1 cm cubes
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until lightly browned
- 1 tbsp finely sliced fresh herbs, to garnish (e.g. mint or more coriander)
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 230 C.
- Cut a criss-cross pattern into the flesh of the aubergines, soak with the olive oil and season. The cuts should be deep but not go all the way through. Roast with cut-side up until the aubergines are soft, 40-60 minutes. Set aside and let cool until the aubergines have reached room temperature.
- Mix the tahini, water, coriander and 1 tbsp lemon juice with a stick blender, normal blender or kitchen machine until you have a green sauce. Season and taste, adding more lemon juice or tahini to taste if required.
- Mix the chopped tomatoes with 1 tbps lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil. Season.
- Put the green tahini sauce onto the aubergine halves and top with the tomatoes, pine nuts and fresh herbs. Serve at room temperature.