There’s something about the taste of Mediterranean smoky grilled aubergine that turns it into a luxurious meal fit for a king. When aubergine is cooked it doesn’t always appear as inviting as it should but when you taste the soft smoky interior it feels like velvet in your mouth. Combine that with flavours of the Mediterranean and you have a rich, delicious vegetarian meal.
The flavour of grilled aubergine is enhanced with sun-dried tomato pesto, pine nuts, goats cheese, fresh basil leaves and Mediterranean spices. To make Mediterranean smoky grilled aubergine, I slice the aubergines lengthways in half and brush them with olive oil, smoked paprika, chilli powder and a pinch of saffron powder. Then place them flesh side down on a hot grill. I recommend the George Foreman grill as it is powerful and produces nice grill marks.
Remove the aubergines before they become too dark and place them in a greased baking dish. Smear half the tomato pesto over the aubergines, reserving the rest to spread over them at the end. Bake the aubergines in the oven for 15 minutes until soft all the way through.
Grill the pine nuts until lightly brown. Spread the remaining tomato pesto on top, sprinkle with the pine nuts and chopped basil. Place in the oven for 1 minute to heat.
Slice the goats cheese log into thin slices and place on top of the aubergine. Place in the oven for 1 minute only just to slightly soften the goats cheese. Any longer and it melts too much. Top with a fresh basil leaf and serve.
Aubergines, also known as egg plants, originated in India but have migrated all over the world due to their popularity and health benefits. Egg plants contain phytonutrients which help maintain brain and healthy body function, fighting off illnesses. They are an excellent source of fibre and are low in carbohydrates and help balance blood sugar levels. Aubergines are high in Vitamin C and manganese, a powerful natural antioxidant. Choose aubergines which are glossy on the outside as dull aubergines means they are too ripe. When you press on the skin your finger should leave a small impression which means they are perfect for cooking.
This recipe for Mediterranean smoky aubergine takes minutes to prepare so is a perfect last minute starter or an accompaniment to a special dinner. Full of the taste of the Mediterranean!
- 4 medium sized aubergines
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder or flaked chillies
- ½ teaspoon saffron powder
- 2 goats cheese rolls
- 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
- 5 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto
Heat the grill and preheat the oven to 170˚C/340˚F.
Slice the aubergines in half lengthways. Brush the olive oil over the flesh of the aubergines.
Sprinkle with the paprika, chilli powder and saffron and brush again with a pastry brush to even out.
Place the aubergines flesh-side down on the grill. Grill for 5 minutes and turn over and grill for a further 5 minutes.
Place the aubergines in a greased baking dish and place flesh side up.
Brush with half the sun-dried tomato pesto. Bake in the oven covered for 15 minutes until soft.
Bake the pine nuts until lightly browned. Spread the remaining tomato pesto over the aubergines, sprinkle with pine nuts and chopped fresh basil. Place uncovered in the oven for 2 minutes to heat.
Slice the goats cheese and places 2 rounds on each aubergine and place in the oven for 1 minute only to warm. Any longer and it will melt too much.
To make saffron powder place 2 tablespoons saffron threads in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a fine powder.
Basil pesto also works well with this recipe.