Baked Aubergine, Chick Peas and Green Chilli

I made this for the first time last week – and my wife took some leftovers into work. It went down so well that I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that I have to blog the recipe as soon as possible. Well, I’m sorry for the delay, here it is at last.

This is another of Bill Granger’s ‘Easy’ dishes, and it really is SO easy. It’s another object lesson that to cook delicious food you just need to combine a few delicious ingredients and apply a little heat…

I have specified chilli oil to make the tomato sauce; I make my own and the recipe links to the instructions on how to make it. It isn’t blisteringly hot, in this dish it just adds a background ‘hum’ and accentuates the other flavours. You can omit it if you wish, just use regular olive oil.

The only unusual ingredient here is pomegranate molasses, a thick, sweet-sour condiment that is readily available from major supermarkets. You might worry that you won’t use it again so why bother? Well, once you have tasted this dish you will definitely make it again, and pomegranate molasses seems to last forever. I discovered a spare bottle in the back of my pantry a few months ago that is 3 years past it’s use-by date – I’m still using it. Of course, I couldn’t possibly recommend that you use anything that far past its best.

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RECIPE – Serves 4

3 medium aubergines, cut lengthways into 1cm-thick slices

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp chilli oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon minced ginger, or fresh ginger very finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely diced

2 birds-eye chillies, finely sliced

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

400g tin chopped tomatoes

400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (can be replaced with 1 tbsp of soft brown sugar mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice)

To garnish:

flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

mint leaves, roughly torn

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds, scattered


METHOD

Preheat your grill to its highest setting. Lightly brush both sides of the aubergine slices with olive oil and lay on the grill tray. Grill for 5-10 minutes on each side, until soft and well-browned. If your grill tray isn’t large enough to cook everything at the same time, do them in batches and set them aside until they are all done.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat a large frying pan and add the chilli oil. When hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, paprika and cumin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and pomegranate molasses. Mix together and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and then let it simmer gently while you wait for the aubergines to grill.

When the aubergines are all done, turn the grill off and heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4.

Place half the aubergine slices in a single layer at the bottom of a medium casserole dish. Pour half the tomato sauce over the aubergine slices, cover with the remaining aubergine and then pour over the remaining tomato sauce. Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve hot from the casserole dish, garnished with parsley and mint leaves, and scattered with pomegranate seeds. This is perfect, and very filling, with a serving of couscous.

This is also delicious at room temperature.

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