Buttery aubergines with toasted couscous
This is a perfect recipe for a crowd and works brilliantly on the barbecue rather than the grill if you like. One thing to ensure here is that your aubergines are buttery and soft; raw aubergine has to be one of the worst things to eat. Aubergine is a pretty resilient vegetable, so be brave when you cook it, and give it long enough to make sure it’s cooked through. Try to get your hands on the longer, thin aubergines, as short fat ones will take much longer to cook through.
FOR THE PEPPERS
4 red peppers, deseeded and cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
FOR THE AUBERGINES
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 long, thin aubergines
plain yoghurt, to serve (optional)
FOR THE COUSCOUS
300g wholewheat giant couscous (mograbieh)
1 heaped teaspoon vegetable stock powder
small bunches of mint, parsley, basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped, stalks reserved
the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon sumac
First, the peppers. Put the peppers into a frying pan with the olive oil, garlic and red onion and cook for 20 minutes over a low to medium heat, until softened and sweeter and the edges are beginning to pick up some golden colour. Add the vinegar and paprika and cook for another 20 minutes, then season well and take off the heat.
While the peppers are cooking, heat your overhead grill or barbecue to medium. Mix the cumin and coriander with the oil and a good pinch of salt. Prick the aubergines all over and rub them with the oil. Put them under the hot grill or on the barbecue for about 25 minutes, turning them a couple of times. You are aiming for the aubergines to almost completely collapse, so be brave.
Fill and boil the kettle. Toast the couscous in a dry frying pan over a medium–high heat for a couple of minutes until it smells toasty but before it colours. Cover with 1 litre of boiling water and add the stock powder and herb stalks. Turn the heat down to medium and let the couscous simmer for 8–10 minutes.
Put the lemon zest and juice into a small bowl with the olive oil. Add the chopped herb leaves and sumac and mix well. Once the couscous is cooked, drain well, remove the herb stalks and dress with half the dressing while still warm.
Place an aubergine on each plate, cut lengthways with a sharp knife and season the insides well with olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve with a heaped spoonful of the couscous and peppers on the side. Finish with the remaining dressing and some yoghurt if you like.
Image: Matt Russell