Ottolenghi’s Aubergine with Black Garlic

Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (3 of 25)

Talk about unwavering devotion – my obsession with aubergines and Ottolenghi’s style of cooking has not ceased ever since I got back from London. Tonight, I experimented with his Aubergine with Black Garlic recipe set out in his vegetarian cookbook “Plenty More”.

Many of you may be asking “what exactly is black garlic?”. To save you the trouble from wikipedia-ing it, black garlic is the latest “it” ingredient, a new superfood. No, it is not a new strain of garlic nor a mutated garlic derivative. It is simply a type of caramelised garlic made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar or tamarind. It gives an unexpected depth of flavour to dishes. It is mellow enough not to dominate. As an added bonus, it supposedly has twice the antioxidants as regular garlic.

As for black garlics origins, it was first used as a food ingredient in Asian cuisine. Nowadays, its popularity has spread to the United States as it has become a sought-after ingredient used in high-end cuisine. Thanks to its recent appearance on Top Chef and Iron Chef, these two television shows have created newfound fame for this otherwise frightful thing. Trust me, if you found this on your kitchen counter and didn’t know that it was supposed to be black, you would mistaken it for being rotten.

Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (22 of 25)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 medium aubergines, sliced widthways into 1.5cm rounds
  • 200 ml olive oil
  • 8 large or 16 small black garlic cloves
  • 200g Greek yoghurt
  • 1.5 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 7 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 red chillies, sliced on the diagonal into 3mm rounds
  • 5g dill leaves
  • 5g basil leaves
  • 5g tarragon leaves (though I had to do without tarragon as this is not easily found in Hong Kong)

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees celsius.

2) Place aubergine rounds into a large bowl and mix with 60ml of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (24 of 25)

3) Lay out on roasting tin lined with parchment paper. Roast until golden-brown and completely soft – about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (10 of 25)

4) While aubergines are roasting, make the sauce. Place the black garlic cloves in a small food processor with 1/3 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of yoghurt and the lemon juice. Blitz for a minute to form a rough paste and then transfer to a medium bowl. Mix through the rest of the yogurt and keep in the fridge until needed.

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Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (12 of 25)

5) Heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan on high heat. Add the garlic and chilli slices, reduce the heat to medium and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the garlic is golden-brown and the chilli is crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and chilli on to a kitchen paper-lined plate.

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6) Arrange the aubergine slices, overlapping, on a platter. Spoon the yoghurt sauce on top, sprinkle over the chilli and garlic and finish with the herbs.

Aubergines with Black Garlic Sauce (1 of 25)

Baked Eggplant with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (1 of 24)

Going through my eggplant (and middle eastern inspired) phase. In my opinion, nothing pairs more harmoniously with eggplant than the creaminess of rich tahini. Seeing I still had a carton of buttermilk sitting in my fridge waiting to expire, I decided to put it to good use to create a tahini-buttermilk sauce to dress some baked eggplants rounds. For those who want a more substantial dinner (i.e. some meat) for dinner as well, the best way to complement this tahini dressed eggplant side dish quickly is by grilling some rosemary lamb chop(s).  Mmm…just writing this at midnight is making me hungry! 

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (2 of 24)

NB: You can adjust the thickness of this tahini-buttermilk dressing by tinkering with the wet ingredients (and can even transform it into a creamy spread that pairs beautifully with sourdough/rye toast).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large long eggplant, cut into rounds
  • A few fresh mint leaves, diced or shredded
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Pepper and salt, to taste
  • Olive oil

SAUCE:

  • 3 tablespoon tahini
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Pinch of salt

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.

2) Cut eggplant into rounds, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Layer eggplants on a roasting tray lined with parchment paper or foil. Spray or brush olive oil on the rounds. Sprinkle dried thyme, crushed black pepper and salt.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (23 of 24)

3) Roast for ~ 20 minutes until eggplant rounds are nicely browned. Keep warm.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (18 of 24)

4) Make the tahini dressing. Combine all the sauce ingredients listed above into a bowl and whisk until smooth.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (20 of 24)

5) Drizzle the tahini sauce on top of the freshly baked eggplant. Garnish with freshly diced or shredded mint so that the colours pop. Serve as a side.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (7 of 24)

Eggplant with Buttermilk Greek Yoghurt Dressing and Pomegranate

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (6 of 18)

After a month of silence, I am finally back with the postings. Past month has been hectic. Got caught up with a multitude of tasks, then travelled to London and Sicily for a much needed and long-awaited break. Finally back and over my jet lag. Fell in love with Ottolenghi’s restaurants in London. In fact, I kept going to his pastry shop in Notting Hill almost every morning since it was just around the corner from where I was staying (hence I unavoidably stacked on the pounds but it was definitely worth every calorie). Bill Granger’s Granger and Co. was just around the corner too. How can one resist Bill’s breakfast, especially his signature ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter that brought him to fame (the scrambled eggs as well of course) in Sydney?

Now that I am back, the first dish I felt naturally compelled to make is an Ottolenghi inspired creation: the baked aubergines with a buttermilk greek yoghurt sauce from his book Plenty. Given the sloppy texture, I know aubergines may not be everyone’s favourite vegetable, but I personally love aubergines. There are so many ways you can dress them up with and they absorb flavours like a sponge. They are the perfect staple vegetable for several middle eastern dishes.

As for the dressing, the yoghurt sauce has the ability to round up so many flavours and textures like no other component does. The addition of buttermilk adds some acidity which works wonders with the slightly greasy nature of the aubergines and the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The original recipe calls for Za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac, sesame seeds and herbs. I value efficiency so I simply just sprinkled sumac on top of the buttermilk dressing to add some contrast in colours and flavour. Finish off with some chopped fresh mint (again, original recipe calls for lemon thyme leaves but these are not so easy to find in Hong Kong).

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (2 of 2)

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 as a side dish):

  • 2 large long eggplants
  • 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of Za’atar or Sumac (or combination of dried thyme, oregano, and pepper)
  • 1/2 pomegranate
  • 3-4 tablespoon of pine nuts, roasted
  • Some fresh mint leaves, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt (Maldon sea salt is ideal)
  • Black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon of greek yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoon of buttermilk (alternative is to add 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes and let it stand)
  • 3/4 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon of garlic past (about 1 small garlic clove)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cumin powder

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a roasting tray with parchment paper or aluminium foil.

2) Cut eggplants diagonally into rounds, almost an inch thick. Use a small sharp knife to make a criss-cross hash pattern on one side of the eggplant so that the flavours can absorb more readily.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (18 of 18)

3) Spray with olive oil cooking spray (or brush with olive oil). Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper, sea salt and dried thyme.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (17 of 18)Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (16 of 18)4) Shove into the oven for ~20 minutes until flesh goes soft and turns into a nicely brown colour (NB: can check by inserting a skewer). Take out of the oven and let it cool completely.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (15 of 18)

5) Whilst eggplants are roasting you can start preparing the buttermilk sauce. Whisk together the buttermilk, yoghurt, cumin, olive oil, garlic paste, and salt. Feel free to adjust for taste according to your own liking (sometimes I like to add a squirt of lemon juice). Keep sauce chilled.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (11 of 18)6) Roast the pine nuts by heating up a pan on medium heat and pan-frying for 2-3 minutes.
Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (12 of 18)7) Cut pomegranate in half and remove the seeds with your fingers. Make sure that all the attached white skin or membrane has been removed apart from the seeds.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (1 of 18)

8) To serve, lay out the cooled aubergine rounds onto a dish and spoon plenty of the buttermilk dressing on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Za’atar or Sumac, and garnish with the pomegranate seeds, roasted pine nuts and some freshly diced mint leaves. Finish with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (3 of 18)