Aubergine is a tricky vegetable. It’s bitter, spongy, full of bitter liquids and absorbs oil like a maniac… but once you know how to handle it, it’s a delight of a different kind.
While the art of frying or grilling aubergine slices is something that goes in my family (like in every Iraqi family) for generations, this time I’ll go through one specific aubergine art – the art of burning it while it’s whole. Then, you get a lovely, creamy inside which can be the base for aubergine spreads, like Baba Ganush for example, but also can be a dish by itself.
When I say ‘burning’, I mean that. This fish is great, if you have time, for a barbeque. You can burn the aubergine on the grill until it is completely soft and the peel is completely burned. Don’t give up and take it off too early. It should look completely burned and be very soft. Only then the magic happen. Open fire will be the best you can do to your aubergine, but your home oven will also work. maximum heat, no fan or ‘turbo’ mode. Then you’ll have to poke some holes in the peel with a knife, otherwise you’ll might have an explosive aubergine at hand (which is a mess to clean up, trust me). Again, turn aside every once in a while and don’t be afraid to let it burn some more. It will thank you later.
When it’s nice and burned, before you go and eat it, there’s one more thing you need to do in order to make it yummy – drain the liquids. The juices that then separate from the inner part are now floating everywhere. Either some of then already spilled on the coal, or they are spraying out while opening the peel. Before you serve, let them go. Peel partially the aubergine – just the upper part (or completely if you want to make a spread out of it) and give it a few minutes. in a plate. Spill all the liquids you can. It will get rid of the unwanted bitterness, and make your aubergine flesh creamier and denser.
Once drained you can basically add whatever you want to it – tahini, lemon-garlic-coriander, other grilled vegetables or even vegan mayonnaise. But – you can also use it to serve some yummy goodies inside – like in the picture.
So, to begin with, ‘air’ the aubergine a bit with your knife. create little spaces so seasoning can get in. In a little plate, mix juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 minced clove of garlic, pinch of salt and a bit of fresh chopped chili to your taste. I used 1/4 fresh Jalapeno pepper. Mix well and pour with a spoon into the aubergine.
In the meanwhile, fry 1 onion in a pan, season with Iraqi Baharat and a bit of turmeric (or any other oriental spice mixture you like) and add 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas. Stir well, if it gets dry add a bit of olive oil into the pan. Make a space in the aubergine, and pour the chickpeas inside. Top with tahini and your favorite greens. Eat, wipe the liquids with some bread, and regret the moment you didn’t throw another aubergine into the over to begin with.