Growing up, I have always known the aubergine as ‘brinjal’ or eggplant. Officially it is known as a fruit (like the tomato) but I always think of it as a vegetable because I associate it with savoury food – curries and cooked in spicy sambal.
The first time I had aubergine salad in this form was when I visited Thessaloniki back in 2001. It was very garlicky, quite spicy and tangy from the use of lemon. They had chunks of feta cheese inside, which I was not too keen on at that time. (I eat feta like a native Greek, now.)
This recipe is actually from George’s family, but I adapted it a bit to make it less pungent, but still with that garlic and lemon kick that makes this salad so yummy when you dip bread in it.
I roast the garlic beforehand – about 1 small clove per aubergine – in addition to the 1 small clove of raw garlic that I add. I also add some roasted red peppers (to add the sweet and smoky flavour), and finely chopped parsley to the mix.
Yes, this is a dish not to be eaten just before you have a job interview or on a date.
This dish is great to make if you have a barbecue going in the garden, and you can roast/toast the aubergines and the pepper on the grill and it will char beautifully. But since it is still quite chilly outside, I had to make do with an oven with a grill function.
- 4 large aubergines
- 5 small garlic cloves
- 1 large red pepper
- Juice from 1 large lemon
- Good extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup, approximately)
- a large handful of parsley, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven with the grill function at 200 degrees C.
- Poke holes with a fork in the aubergines all around. Place them in a baking dish and once the oven is hot, cook the aubergines on the top most rack until its cooked and slightly charred, for about an hour, turning regularly.
- About halfway through cooking the aubergines, place the red pepper on the baking tray and start grilling that too.
- Place 4 garlic cloves into a small piece of foil and scrunch it close. When you are about to turn the red pepper (after about 15 minutes), place the foil in the baking tray, as well.
- Once the aubergines and peppers are ready, make a cut lengthwise into the aubergines, and leave it to cool slightly so you won’t burn your fingers when you touch them.
- It is now easy to scoop out the flesh from the outer purple skin, and scoop them out and place them in a colander or sieve. This will help the flesh to drain out the extra liquid.
- Peel the charred skin off the red pepper,and chop the flesh into small pieces. It doesn’t matter if some black pieces are stuck to the flesh – this will make it taste more smoky.
- Take the roasted garlic cloves and crush them with the back of a small fork, and add the lemon juice, and whisk thoroughly. Take the piece of raw garlic and chop fine, and add that to the lemon mixture.
- In a big bowl, add the drained aubergine flesh, the chopped red pepper, the parsley, the lemon and garlic mix, and stir while gradually pouring in the olive oil. Add more (or less) olive oil, if you want.
- Season with salt and pepper, and continuously mix. Do not over mix or mash it too much – you want it to have a bit of texture. You may want to add more lemon juice too, according to your tastebuds.
- Serve as an appetizer, with huge chunks of bread, so you can dip it in the salad. It goes well with tzatziki, and because of the strong lemony flavours, I love to eat it as a side dish to roast meats, especially lamb.