Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Aubergine, chickpea and preserved lemon with cous cous

Ottolenghi on Upper Street in Islington is far and away my favourite restaurant. I'm an equally huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi's weekly Guardian column and his two cookbooks, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Plenty

This dish is inspired by (for which read: copied, subject to adaptation and guesswork) one that we ate there a couple of months ago when we took my mum to the restaurant. The original dish used whole baby aubergines, but apart from that one difference, this is a relatively faithful interpretation. I serve it with cous cous to round it off into a complete meal, but you could equally serve it on its own.

If I'm honest, I sometimes find Ottolenghi recipes a bit daunting. They are often bursting with dozens of ingredients, in precise measurements, some of which can be difficult to buy. They seem like hard work. But they more than reward the effort.

In comparison to most Ottolenghi dishes, however, this interpretation is extremely quick and easy to cook. I timed myself when cooking (having not got home until gone 10pm) and it took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. It tastes like a lot more effort is involved.


1 medium-large aubergine
1 tin of tomatoes (400g)
1 tin of chickpeas
1 preserved lemon
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100g feta
50g pine nuts
Olive oil

To serve:

250g cous cous (dry weight)
400ml boiling water
1 teaspoon Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon

Chop the aubergine into 1.5cm cubes and toss the pieces in olive oil. Spread evenly on a baking tray and put underneath a very hot grill. Don't worry if the aubergine burns a bit - it will add to the flavour. Pour the boiling water over the cous cous and bouillon powder, stir and cover with cling film. Place the pine nuts in a frying pan and toast gently (don't let these burn, they'll taste foul). Slice the garlic and fry gently in olive oil. Add the tinned tomato and tomato puree. Finely chop the preserved lemon and add to the tomato. Season with salt, add the cinnamon and stir well. Drain the chickpeas and add to the tomato. Once the aubergines are beginning to blacken at the edges, add them to the tomato and chickpeas and stir well. Serve the stew on a bed of cous cous and scatter the crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts over the top.

I reckon this serves 3 people. It tastes good cold as well as hot, and could also be served with quinoa or bulgar wheat instead of cous cous.

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