The one glut we are totally prepared for is the aubergines, but this year our plants did not do well in the hard spring [below] and fruit were thin on the ground. So we resort to buying them especially to make this recipe.This is an adaptation of a recipe that’s been in my file for a while, a page torn out of some unidentifiable magazine. It’s by Emma Grazette & Stevie Parle from their Channel 4 programme Spice Trip which we haven’t seen. They use chilli and cumin with powerful results. I made one addition – adding a small jar of cooked chick peas to the tomato sauce to give it enough protein for a standalone meal. When I make it again – and make it I will as it was excellent – I will add some shredded mint leaves on top before serving.
These are the quantities I used to make a main course serving for two, served on its own without bread or cous cous, using our only five small aubergines picked so far. Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes with juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 large aubergines or 5 small ones, sliced into ½cm rounds
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
Packet of feta, crumbled*
1 small jar chickpeas, drained and rinsed Warm a large glug of olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic gently over a low heat without it browning. Pour in the tomatoes, season. Add the chilli flakes. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat low and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes so it thickens and sweetens. Stir in the vinegar. Set aside to cool, adding the chick peas.
Meanwhile wash and slice the aubergines. Heat a large glug of olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook the aubergine slices in batches, with one layer filling the base of the pan at a time for even browning. When the oil is hot, sprinkle the aubergine slices with salt and place into the pan. Fry on each side until soft and golden, remove from the pan and set aside to drain on a plate with kitchen paper. Add more oil if needed, and cook more batches of aubergine slices. We ate our salad at room temperature, so I prepared the sauce and the aubergines to this stage and then left them covered to cool gradually. Do not put them in the fridge. To make the cumin salt, dry fry the cumin seeds in a small frying pan on a medium heat until they start to change colour and give off their spicy scent. Do not overcook as they will burn. Tip the seeds into a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt and pepper, and grind until fine.
To serve, place the aubergine slices in a single layer on a large plate. Spread the tomato and chick pea sauce on top, then crumble over the feta. Finally sprinkle over a pinch of the cumin salt, serving the rest in a small bowl to add to personal preference.
5 to remember
la berenjena – aubergine
el comino en grano – cumin seed
el queso de feta – feta cheese*
los garbanzos – chick peas
el vinagre – vinegar
*We are unable to buy true feta cheese inland here, but find Mercadona’s tub of cubed queso para ensalada is a useful substitute