I love this time of year when you get the occasional day with a hint of autumn but you have the best of the summer bounty to cook and eat. Eggplant and tomatoes always have a taste of summer to me and, combined as one dish, they make an unbeatable combination. This particular eggplant salad is from Morocco and is both lavish and simple, and provides all the reasons for why I love Arabic and middle-eastern food. Eggplants are cooked over an open flame until tender, then mashed with a reduced tomato and garlic sauce, then dressed with olive oil, lemon, spices, and a generous amounts of coriander and parsley.
The lavish amounts of coriander and parsley are what make this salad sing. Arabs, like the Vietnamese, understand you should never ever be stingy with the fresh herbs – in fact, more is almost always better. When I first made this salad, I chopped up an entire bunch of coriander and then a bunch parsley, and it made such a pile of herbs that I thought it would just overwhelm the roasted eggplant. I hesitated only for a moment and then threw the whole lot in – which was the right call, because it wasn’t too much but, in fact, just right. The best time to make this salad is right now when the eggplants and tomatoes are at their best and, although the days are shorter, the summertime still lingers on.
Moroccan eggplant and tomato salad
From Arabesque, by Claudia Roden
- 2 medium size eggplants (About 750 grams)
- Juice of ½ to 1 lemon
- 500 grams tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- A good pinch of ground chilli pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 bunch of coriander (finely chopped)
- A handful of black olives (to garnish)
- I roast my eggplants over the flame on my stove by pricking the skin a few times with a fork, placing the eggplant on the flame and turning the eggplant round as the skin blackens. The flesh should be collapsed and soft when fully cooked. Allow to cool, peel off the blackened skin and place flesh in sieve to let the juices run out. If you haven’t got a gas stove or you don’t like the smoky taste of flame roasted eggplant, you can just cut the eggplants in half place cut side on a lightly oiled tray, prick skin lightly with a fork and cook in a hot oven 200°C (400°F) for about 30 to 40 minutes until flesh is soft and cooked, then scoop out the flesh from the skin and place in a sieve to drain.
- While the eggplants are cooking, saute garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add tomatoes and salt, and cook down until tomatoes are reduced and saucy. (This should take about 30 minutes but if your tomatoes it are very watery, it will take longer).
- Gently mash eggplant with a fork or knife and makes sure excess juices are squeezed out. Place eggplant in a bowl and add paprika, chilli pepper, cumin, tomatoes and freshly chopped herb. Stir to combine, then dress with lemon, olive oil and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings – it may need more lemon, oil or salt. Let rest for a couple of hours before serving to allow flavors to mingle.
- Serve with bread, olives or as part of a bigger mezze platter or meal.