Aubergines with Buttermilk Sauce by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4 as a starter - or 2 as a main course.
2 large and long aubergines
80ml olive oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme (I couldnt get any so used 1 tsp dry thyme)
1 tsp za'atar spice blend
maldon sea salt
For the sauce:
100g greek yogurt
1 1/2 tblsp olive oil plus a little drizzle to finish
1 small garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Cut the aubergines in half lenghtways, cutting straight through the stalk. Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of the aubergine half, without cutting through the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.
2. Place the aubergine halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Brush them with the olive oil - keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the thyme and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 mins, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavoursome and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.
3. Meanwhile, cut the pomegranate in two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of membrane.
4. For the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients, taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed. To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the aubergine halves without covering the stalks (they are just for decoration). Sprinkle za'atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.
As I had no thyme I sprinkled chopped fresh mint to echo the middle eastern vibe of this dish...coriander or parsley would also be great.
I have to confess that I was concerned the dish would be overly rich and creamy for my citrus and spice loving palate with the densely oiled aubergine and creamy sauce; boy was I was worng!
The aubergine was not at all greasy but instead lucious and tender. The garlic spiked sauce was complimented beautifully with pomegranate seeds that literally burst little intervals of perfumed fruitiness into the mix. The addition if the za'atar seasoning with its lemony tang courtesy of the ground sumac, to name but a few of the spices included in this unique blend, was inspired.
Now, za'atar is not as widely available as it should be and my own pot came from Dean & Deluca on a recent trip to Manhatten. Now I am not suggesting you fly around the world for this but it is worth tracking some down online, not only for this recipe but to be sprinkled on hummous topped toasted bread or mixed with olive oil to dress tomato, cucumber and parsley salads as part of a mezze type affair. The buttermilk sauce could also serve as a stand alone dip or the whole recipe (with the cooked flesh scooped out of the aubergine and the pomegranate omitted) plonked into a blender and whizzed up ready to be smeared on hot toast or gobbled up with some flat bread as a tribute to baba ganoush. This is what makes this recipe a new favourite, it has inspired me to create a handful of other recipes from its basic idea...I could go on.
I am pretty sure I have made myself clear now and I urge everyone to try it whilst I go about hunting down more recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi.
My husband agreed and, as we reclined on the sofa, was rubbing his hands together in anticipation for the rest of the week.