Burnt aubergine salad with pomegranate
Bigger is not better when it comes to aubergines – it depends what you are going to do with them. Here you want them to char so that the inside cooks evenly to a voluptuous pulp and that won’t happen if you use a huge bulb-bottomed one. Go instead for aubergines that might be described as ‘medium’ and pick those that are more cylindrical than pear-shaped. If you’ve got scales handy, 200-250g per veg is ideal for this recipe; larger aubergines tend to have a surfeit of seeds.
Grilling and charring are also essential and you could use a gas burner or a barbecue grill. It is possible to cook the aubergines in the oven (for about an hour at 200°C) but while they will blacken a bit, cook to velvety softness, and taste perfectly okay, they won’t have the smoky hit that makes eyes widen and fingers long to scrape the bottom of the bowl. Your other option for large bulbous aubergines is to char them over a gas flame, then bung them in the oven for 30-45 minutes to finish cooking.
1. Make the salad
If using a gas burner, take a square of foil and fold it in quarters to make a small square. Cut off the corner that corresponds with the centre of the unfolded sheet, then unfold and gently fit the foil around the gas burner.
Light the gas and, working one at a time, lay the aubergines on it. Cook, turning often with metal-tipped tongs, so that the skin blackens and blisters all over. Remove when the centre of the aubergine has softened and collapsed – there should be no whiteness. Alternatively, use a barbecue grill.
While the aubergines are charring, pick the leaves from the parsley stalks and finely chop them. Finely chop the onion and garlic too – this is a good time to use a small food processor if you like. Transfer to a bowl.
When the aubergines are cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the blackened skin and core. Put the flesh in the bowl and use two forks to tear it apart, mixing the pulp into the other ingredients.
Add the olive oil and pomegranate molasses (or lemon juice) and mix again. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If using cherry tomatoes, halve them, if using larger tomatoes, chop them roughly. Stir them into the aubergine mixture then taste and adjust all the seasonings as desired.
2. Garnish and serve
Garnish with pomegranate seeds, red onion and parsley.
Serve at room temperature with whatever you fancy: crudités, flatbreads and crackers, or grilled lamb or chicken.