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Tunisian Aubergine Salad with Coriander and Yoghurt

This is my adaptation of an Elizabeth David recipe. I never actually made it from her book, but one of my favourite restaurants, Chez Bruce, in Wandsworth, London, regularly serves it as a first course. It's so wonderful I never have anything else if it's on the menu.

 
 

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Two

Method

You'll need to start this recipe the day before you want to serve it.

First salt and drain the aubergines: place them in a large colander and, as you add them, sprinkle with 1 level tablespoon of salt, then cover with a plate and weigh it down with a few scale weights or a similar heavy object.

Now place the colander on a plate and leave the aubergine to drain for 1 hour. When it has been draining for 30 minutes, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F (230°C).

Meanwhile, skin the tomatoes. To do this, pour boiling water over them and leave for exactly 1 minute before draining them and slipping off their skins, protecting your hands with a cloth if they are too hot.

Cut them in half and place them cut-side up on the smaller baking tray, which should be lightly oiled, and brush the tomatoes with a little olive oil as well. Set to one side.

Now you need to dry-roast the cumin seeds and allspice berries, and to do this place them in a small frying pan or saucepan over a medium heat and stir and toss them around for 1-2 minutes, or until they begin to look toasted and start to jump in the pan. Now transfer them to a pestle and mortar and crush them to a powder.

When the aubergines are ready, squeeze them to get rid of any excess juices, dry them in a clean tea cloth, then place them in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and toss them around so they get a good coating.

After that, spread them out on the larger baking tray and place both baking trays in the oven, with the aubergines on the top shelf and the tomatoes on the next one down. Give them about 25 minutes, by which time the aubergines should be tinged golden brown at the edges and the tomatoes soft.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and, when the tomatoes are cool enough, chop them into quite small pieces. Meanwhile, heat 2 more tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat and fry the onions until soft and pale gold – about 5 minutes – then add the chilli and garlic and fry for 1 more minute.

Next add the chopped tomatoes, aubergines and crushed spices, stir well, add the herbs and season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. Bring everything up to a gentle simmer, then remove the pan from the heat and pile everything into a serving dish.

Leave for 24 hours, or longer if possible, covered in the fridge.

Serve the salad at room temperature, drizzled with the olive oil. Serve with the warm pitta breads, about a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt with each serving and the fresh herbs scattered over.

 

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