This is the first recipe I am posting. At first I wasn’t even sure I would include any recipes on my blog. I would rather starve then eat a convenience meal, so I cook – a lot. But there are so many recipe blog formats out there, does the net really need another one? Well, maybe… I have decided to post only my most successful recipes, things I make a lot and I know taste good.
I make this aubergine tagine regularly. It is inspired by a dish at the Comptoir Libanaise. I do like the Comptoir for making middle eastern food a bit more accesible to Londoners – albeit it is a bit too Disney in its branding for my taste, still – CNN found it to be the best value meal in London. I replicated the dish I ate there by modifiying a Delicious recipe from the Channel 4 website for a aubergine and chestnut tagine.
Aubergine recipes usually feature extremely tedious and sweat inducing steps like frying individual slices and then using up countless sheets of kitchen roll to drain them. Then inevitably, the vegetable is smothered in cheeses. I think this dish has all the flavor minus the faffing but it does call for 7 spices! The dish takes colour (and anti-carcinogenic properties-won’t you be feeling virtuous if you make this!?) with turmeric. Heat with chilli and ginger. A taste of the middle east with cinnamon, coriander and cumin. And finally just a touch of ground cloves (it adds a clean note to all the smokiness of the other spices). You probably have most of these spices in your cupboard (if you are anything like me, you probably have more than one of each – some way past their best before date).
I used some stripped aubergines I found at the market here in Athens. But in London or Berlin I would just use regular dark purple ones. I would also urge you to make this dish when aubergines are in season (depending where in the world you are that is either early or not so early summer) otherwise they will be full of seeds and bitter.
Out of habit, I always chop up the flesh and put it in a colander with some salt “to draw out the bitter juices”. In actual fact, I believe the so called bitter juices have been cultivated right out of modern aubergines but I feel that after they are allowed to weep for half and hour or so they seem to absorb less oil and have a better texture?
Put in two onions along with three cloves of garlic. Fry the onions until soft, then add the sliced garlic and stir it around for a minute so the two alliums can get properly acquainted. The spices should be tipped into the pan all at once. There is an absolute explosion of smell at this point with the cloves as a high point. Stir until fragrant along with a bit more olive oil. Then add the rinsed aubergines and hover around the pan and give it a stir every few minutes or so to prevent any sticking.
Once the aubergines look a little bit shrunken, with some nice golden bits – add a can of chopped tomatoes, fill that can twice with water and add that too, followed by the raisins then chickpeas and at least double the amount of salt you think you would need. Let it bubble away then serve with cous cous, chopped parsley and harissa! Without sounding conceited, this dish is delicious – even more so when you consider that there is hardly any oil, no cheese and for once – no pasta. Too late, I sound smug and annoying! Recipe follows below…
Aubergine (Eggplant) and Chickpea Tagine (serves 4)
- 2 large aubergines or 5 small
- 2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon of grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger)
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 2 cans water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons of golden raisins (dark are also fine)
- 1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- salt (a lot more than you think!) and pepper to taste
- olive oil, as needed (about 1/2 a cup)
- Cut the aubergines into 3 cm cubes, salt liberally and place in colander to weep.
- Fry the thinly sliced onion in a large non stick pan (I use a wok) until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and stir for 1 minute. Tip in the spices and stir until fragrant about 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then add the aubergine.
- Fry the aubergines, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. Its important not to rush this part because this is where the aubergine softens up and becomes sweet. It takes around 15 minutes on a medium heat.
- When you see the aubergines just starting to break up, add the chopped tomatoes and two cans full of water. Add the raisins and at least 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, after about 10 minutes add the chickpeas and then simmer until the tomato sauce has thickened.
- Check the seasoning adding more salt if it needs it.
- Serve with a handful of roughly chopped parsley, fluffy cous cous and a jar of harissa.
- This is one of those dishes, that if there is any left, is even better the next day.