Quite a few people have trouble dealing with eggplant (aubergine). It seems most people like the idea of eating it, but they falter when it actually comes to the cooking. One of my favourite eggplant stories (travesties?) comes from my student share house days. One member of the house arrived home with a bag full of enticingly fresh eggplant. We were informed that eggplant surprise was on the menu that evening. Of course, the surprise lay with the fact that the eggplant were simply sliced into rounds, fried in some rather bland oil and unceremoniously throw onto a plate, alone.
On the other hand, this wonderful method of dealing with eggplant, which ends up tasting subtly smoky, has a few similarities to baba ganoush. Both involve roasting the whole eggplant over an open flame, both have lemon, parsley and garlic included in the recipe, but the are sufficiently different to deserve their own space, treatment and accompaniments.
We are currently serving smoked eggplant with grilled lamb loin at the restaurant, but it also marries very well to meaty cuts of fish, such as tuna and swordfish. Alternatively, try simply serving it with good quality bread with some olives and some yoghurt that has been enlivened with garlic, lemon, cumin and sea salt.
You will need fire for this recipe. Real wood fire is best, but a gas flame will work as well.
2 large eggplant
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (or garlic oil)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 a preserved lemon, chopped (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Pierce the skin of the eggplant several times with the tines of a fork. Place them directly over flames and roast until the skin has blistered and they have collapsed a little. Turn over and do the other side. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Slice the top (calyx) from the eggplant and then slice in half lengthways. Scoop out the now soft flesh with a spoon. Don't despair if a little charred skin comes along, that is all a part of the rustic fun. Place into a sieve or colander and allow to drain for 20 minutes.
Place into a bowl with all the ingredients except the oil and seasonings. Mix well but leave some texture to the eggplant. It is not meant to be pureed. Season with salt and pepper and moisten with the oil. Start with 60 ml (1/4 cup) and stir through. Use more oil if necessary.
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but serve at room temperature.