One of the best things you can do to an aubergine, is to roast it. If you slice it first, all you need is a few simple toppings, and you’ve got a spectacular feast – for the eyes and for your taste buds. Aubergine with cumin yoghurt is one of my favourite ways to prepare this mighty vegetable – so much so it made it to the front cover of my first cookbook.
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, such as baba ganoush. 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 us so many options that we 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.
A favourite way with the aubergine
One of the best ways of preparing aubergines is this.
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, but it has long been common, one way or the other, across the Middle East. Ottolenghi simply elevated it, and since then many more have developed their own versions of it.
Out of all the versions I’ve tried so far, this one’s my favourite. Cumin adds a slightly warming, almost 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!
Things to keep in mind
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 aubergine with cumin yoghurt as part of a meze spread, as a starter with fresh bread on the side, or as a side dish to, say, chicken. Or enjoy it alongside some spiced chickpeas and a green salad for a tasty vegetarian meal.
Serves 3-6, depending on what else is on offer.
- 3 aubergines (c. 700 g), peeled in zebra stripes and cut into 3 cm slices
- 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. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Arrange the aubergine slices on the baking parchment. Add the olive oil and a little seasoning on both sides.
- Roast in the middle of the oven until golden on top and completely soft in the middle, 30-40 minutes. Turn the aubergines after 20-25 minutes if they’re starting to get too brown underneath. Leave to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, using a pestle and mortar or the flat side of a knife against the chopping board, crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Mix with the cumin and yoghurt. Set aside.
- Transfer the aubergine slices to the 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.