True friends are hard to come by. Friends that know you inside out, that put up with your imperfections and worries and are always there, whenever needed, no matter how much time has passed between meetings. Friends like these are necessary to get through life, and like all good relationships when they work together they bring out the best in one another. It is similar in the food world, though not so complicated by feelings and emotions, where certain foods when paired with particular ingredients will elevate one another to higher levels. Classics such as lamb and mint, tomato and basil and the modern, if slightly overused, caramel and salt are all examples of the perfect harmony that can be attained with the right partnership. Aubergine, the lucky devil, has many best friends. Garlic, lamb, tomatoes, and chilli all benefit from aubergines gentle offer of complementary support, rather than overpowering heavy handedness. This dish works so well because harissa pastes include so many of the ingredients that aubergines love, such as tomatoes, red peppers, garlic, chilli and often a generous quantity of oil – another of aubergines friends, though to be fair who isn’t friends with oil.
If the harissa paste you have doesn’t seem so oily then I would advise you to add some of your own, be generous 2-3 tablespoons is a good start, the aubergine will be grateful. It is also worth noting that you should look for a harissa paste that has chillies as one of the first ingredients. This way you know you will be getting a fiery paste rather than one that is watered down by tomatoes and red peppers. For reference I used Belazu, and found using 40g packed a punch. Though if you’re not sure then less is more, add small amounts and taste until you are happy with the heat levels.
Harissa baked Aubergines with Tahini and Bulgur and Pomegranate Salad
Cooking Time: 1hr
1 Large Aubergine
40-50g Harissa Paste
110g Bulgur Wheat
1 Pomegranate – or about 100g seeds
Handful of parsley
8-10 Mint leaves
Heat the oven to 180’c (fan). Cut the aubergine in half, lengthwise, and make deep criss-cross slits diagonally across the flesh. Place in a baking tray, cut side facing up. Finely chop the tomatoes; a quick pulse in a food processor does the job too. Stir in the harissa, adding as much or as little as you like, depending on how hot your harissa is and also how spicy you like things – it is all a matter of personal preference so taste the tomato and harissa mix frequently until you are happy with the heat levels. Spoon this mixture over the aubergines, drizzle with a little oil and then place in the oven for about 40-50minutes until very soft. It is a good idea every 15 minutes or so to pour of the juices that collect in the pan and then tip them back over the aubergines.
About ten minutes before the aubergines are cooked, place the bulgur wheat in a bowl, add a generous pinch of salt. You could also add a tsp of Ras el hanout or Za’taar for extra depth if you have some to hand. Pour over 110g boiling water and cover with cling film and leave to soak for ten minutes.
Finely chop the parsley and mint and add to the bulgur wheat. Cut the pomegranate in half and while holding one half over the bowl of bulgur wheat, cut side down, firmly hit the pomegranate with a spoon or rolling pin to knock out all the seeds. Repeat with the other half. Stir all the ingredients together and add some more boiling water and some oil if it is a little dry.
Once the aubergines are cooked place on a plate, drizzle with a tablespoon of tahini and serve alongside the bulgur wheat salad and some yoghurt.
Printable version: Harissa Baked Aubergines