Burnt Aubergine with Yellow Pepper and Red Onion
You want the aubergine flesh to be really smoky here. There are three ways to do this. The first – and the one we prefer, although it’s the messier option! – is to burn the aubergines directly on the open flame of your gas hob. If you cover the hob surface with aluminium foil before doing so – making holes for the gas heads to come through – you’ll save yourself a lot of elbow grease.
Ventilating your kitchen well is also another precautionary step we’d recommend. Use long kitchen tongs to turn the aubergines around throughout the charring, so that they’re burnt on all sides. The second way to do this, if you have an electric hob, is to just pop them in a chargrill pan, on a very high heat, turning again throughout. This will take longer – about 45 minutes – but the result will be the same. If you want to dispense with the hob altogether you can also pierce them with a sharp knife in a couple of places and then burn them under a very hot grill in the oven, which will take about an hour. Turn them, again, throughout the hour, so that they get grilled on all sides.
This salad – a variation on a classic Tunisian salad – is Sami’s mother’s recipe. Serve it with a range of other mezze salads, with some large chunks of crusty bread served alongside.
- 2 medium aubergines
- 2 yellow or green peppers, halved, de-seeded, core removed and cut into 1.5cm dice
- 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
- 24 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 40g parsley, roughly chopped
- 70ml sunflower oil
- 90ml cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- flaky sea salt and black pepper
Place the aubergines directly on 2 separate moderate flames on the stove and roast for 12–15 minutes, turning them occasionally with metal tongs, until the flesh is soft and the skin is burnt and flaky. By this stage your kitchen will have the most magnificent charred smell. (Alternatively, place the aubergines under a hot grill for about an hour, turning them occasionally and continuing to cook even if they burst.) Leave to cool slightly.
Make a long cut through each warm aubergine. Using a spoon, scoop out the soft flesh while avoiding most of the burnt skin on the outside. If you don’t like the seeds, try to avoid them as well. Leave the aubergine flesh to drain in a colander for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Chop the aubergine flesh roughly. Mix all the ingredients together, then taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be robust and pungent. Serve within 24 hours.