Who doesn’t love roast aubergine with yoghurt sauce, beautifully arranged on a big colourful plate?
Aubergine is one of my favourite things to eat. Rare is the week where an aubergine or three hasn’t been grilled, baked or fried in my kitchen. Sometimes I want the soft meat for a dip. Sometimes I make thin slices which I roast or fry until crisp. Sometimes I chop them into big chunks for a substantial addition to a stew or salad. And sometimes I put the whole thing on a gas flame, slice it open and add whichever toppings I feel like. The humble aubergine gives so many options that one could probably eat it every day without getting tired of it. And, of course it doesn’t hurt that my local market has a bountiful supply of beautiful aubergines every single week.
One of the best ways of preparing aubergines is this, however: Thick, roasted slices with a simply flavoured yoghurt, topped with something crunchy and something fresh. So simple. So irresistibly good.
Ottolenghi, the London based chain of delis, probably deserves a lot of credit for popularising this type of dish. Among the delicious large plates of salads at their shop window you’ll always find one of these. It was here I first came across this way of preparing aubergines and since then I’ve made many varieties of it, inspired by Ottolenghi and others.
This one is my favourite at the moment. Cumin adds a slightly exotic touch to the yoghurt without overpowering the dish. Toasted almonds contribute much needed crunch. And with pomegranate seeds and herbs scattered on top it’s a feast both for eyes and taste buds!
Be generous with the olive oil
The most important thing to keep in mind when cooking aubergine is to give it enough time so that the flesh goes completely soft. Honestly, no one likes chewy aubergine. It’s better to leave it a few minutes too many than too few. It also benefits from humidity, so avoid opening the oven door for at least the first 20 minutes of cooking – if you do you’ll let the steam out and the aubergines will dry up just a little bit more than they would otherwise have done. And be generous with the olive oil – use too little and you’ll lose almost all the flavour.
Serve it as part of a meze spread, as a starter with fresh bread on the side, or as a side dish to, say, chicken. Or serve alongside some spiced chickpeas and a green salad for a tasty vegetarian meal. Yields a large plate serving 3-6, depending on what else is on offer.
Aubergine with cumin yoghurt
- 3 aubergines (c. 700 g), peeled in zebra stripes and cut into 3-4 cm. thick discs
- 5 tbsp (75 ml) olive oil
- 1/2 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 200 g yoghurt
- 25 g toasted sliced almonds or whole almonds, roughly chopped
- seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
- 15 g fresh herbs such as flat-leaf parsley, coriander or mint (thick stalks discarded)
- salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 230 C.
- Spread the aubergine discs on a roasting tray. Spread the olive oil and a little seasoning on both sides.
- Roast the aubergine in the middle of the oven until soft in the middle and lightly browned on top, 30-40 minutes. Turn the discs after 20-25 minutes if they’re starting to get too brown underneath. Leave to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt using a pestle and mortar, or chop as finely as you can. Mix with cumin and yoghurt. Set aside.
- Remove the aubergine discs to your serving tray. Top with most of the cumin yoghurt followed by toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs. Serve any left-over yoghurt on the side.