Aubergine with the works

An explosion of flavours! I really cannot recommend this Middle Eastern inspired dish enough.
Aubergine with the works - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Aubergine with the works

Aubergine with the works

An explosion of flavours! I really cannot recommend this Middle Eastern inspired dish enough.
Aubergine with the works - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
Aubergine with the works

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

The pictures don’t lie: This is absolutely delicious. What’s more: it’s really simple to make, too.

When I left London last summer, the city was in the middle of a really exciting time for Middle Eastern flavoured food. It was trendy – more so than posh burgers or tacos, even.

New restaurant openings were frequent, each with their own unique twist on the region’s long food traditions. It was at one of these joints I first realised how incredible a vehicle the aubergine is for other flavours.

This summer took me back to that moment. My Israeli friend Mor (without whom my food would quite probably be different today) was visiting and we were going to cook together. She insisted on roast cauliflower and aubergine with lots of toppings.

—It’s really tasty, she said.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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And she was right. Of course she was right. Not that I ever doubted.

There’s something incredible luxurious about all these clean and simple flavours when they get to mingle just the moment you bite into it.

Every mouthful is different. One gets lots of tomato, and is tastily zingy.  Another has more of the earthiness and depth of tahini. A third gets the freshness and kick of the herb oil. Another one the crunchy sweetness of bright red pomegranate seeds.

Grab a little bit of everything and you’ll get an explosion of flavours you won’t forget any time soon.

Aubergine with the works - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

I’ve skipped the cauliflower and kept it simple with just the aubergine. I think it works even better.

And don’t let the amount of toppings to be prepared scare you: each takes no more than two minutes to prepare. As soon as you’ve grated a tomato and crushed a (small) clove of garlic you’re basically done.

Everything else is just whisking together a couple of ingredients here and there. No boiling, no frying, no special techniques. All you need is a few small bowls and a fork.

Oh, and you’ll have to boil an egg. If you want, that is.

If you prefer to keep it vegan, I promise it’s perfectly delicious without.

Aubergine with the works is a perfect addition to any meze table or even as a starter on its own when you have guests over. Or serve it for weekday dinner with some spiced chickpeas or fried meat, if you want. A little mid-week treat never hurt anyone, right?

The recipe serves 2-4, depending on what else is on offer.

Aubergine with the works - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Aubergine with the works

Yield: 2-4 portions

Ingredients

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 egg
  • seeds of ½ pomegranate

Grated tomato

  • 1 medium sized tomato, sliced in half
  • 1 tsp best quality tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
  • salt and black pepper

Tahini sauce

  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste with a little salt with a pestle and mortar
  • 30 g tahini
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbsp water or juices from the grated tomato
  • salt and black pepper

Herb oil

  • 15 g fresh coriander (or flat-leaf parsley, if you prefer)
  • ½ green chili, deseeded if you like
  • 1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Prickle the aubergine with a fork in a few places and burn directly over a naked gas flame until blackened all over and soft on the inside, 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the aubergine. Turn occasionally. If you don’t have a gas stove og gas barbecue available, bake in the oven on maximum temperature until the aubergine is collapsed and soft on the inside, 30-60 minutes. Turn at least once during cooking. When cool enough to handle, remove the burnt skin as best you can (use only your hands and under no circumstance be tempted to use running water). Or leave the skin on for dramatic effect (keeping in mind it makes it a little more tricky to eat).
  2. Boil the egg to your liking. I prefer mine soft in the middle but otherwise firm and boil it for 7 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice in half lengthways.
  3. Grate the tomatoes cut-side down. Discard the skin. Mix the grated tomato with the tomato paste and chili flakes and season.
  4. Mix the ingredients for the tahini sauce and season. Start with 2 tbsp water and add more if necessary – the sauce should be runny but still be a sauce, not a liquid. If you want, you can substitute the tomato juices from the grated tomato for the water, it makes for an even tastier sauce.
  5. Blitz the ingredients for the herb oil with a stick blender and season. If you don’t have a stick blender (or want to save on the dishes), just tear the coriander leaves from the stalks, thinly slice the chili and use as separate toppings instead of a herb oil.
  6. Make an incision into the aubergines and unfold. Top with everything else: egg, grated tomato (I use a fork, leaving the runny juices behind), tahini sauce, herb oil (or coriander leaves and green chili slices) and pomegranate seeds. Reserve a little of each topping to make sure there’s more to add when the top layer is gone. Enjoy!

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

My books

I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

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Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him