Burnt Aubergines, Avocado-Tahini Sauce and Fried Capers and Chickpeas (vegan & gluten-free)

Meltingly soft fire-roasted eggplant plus creamy avocado sauce and salty, citrus-spiked capers and chickpeas make this as much a meal as an impressive appetizer or dip. Like us humans, plants long for light and warmth. In the depths of winter, both us and plants tend to hibernate – them waiting for the first pale, watery sunlight to unfurl tightly-knotted shoots; us hunkered down and longing to shed heavy jackets and wooly layers.

Spring brings treasures of delicate flavours, blossoms and colours – curls of pea shoots, tufts of radishes leaves, those anticipated first spears of asparagus. Come summer it is a free for all of texture, rapidly expanding leaves and roots, and bright vivid swathes of colour. 

roasting eggplantsNow we are entering the best time, autumn. Not only are the dusky Victoria plums almost rude in their voluptuous ripeness, tumbles of fat juicy tomatoes threaten to somersault from their trusses and onto the ground. My inner forager also thrills at sneaking into a nearby deserted, secret car park (shh) and picking wild brambles, paying for it in stained fingers and long, thorn-gouged scratches. And still the summer fruits and vegetables continue to flourish as long as the sun is warm.

Here in the UK, September is often a late, welcome burst of summer. Right now my conservatory doors are open, the kitchen door too, and light is streaming in. I can see the apple tree from where I sit, and it is heavy with fruit. Likewise the plum tree, espaliered across the back of our south-facing garage wall, daily shifting from pale almost opalescent green to deep magenta.

But I am still craving summer food. Or rather food whose ingredients are still defiantly summery but heartier in preparation for the short days ahead.

Aubergines and tomatoes are still at their peak, my own tomatoes still ripening and threatening to push through the conservatory roof. This recipe uses both, along with creamy, ripe avocado, nutty chickpeas, salty-sharp capers, and a special, kind of out-there ingredient that I love, but don’t feel you need to rush out and get. I roasted the aubergines on a charcoal grill to get the smoky flavour that complements aubergines so well, but do them in the oven or on a gas hob as alternatives if your own barbecue grill is tucked away for the year.

Whether of not it is warm or just starting to cool for you, this textural mosaic of flavours and colours will hopefully pique your interest.

By the way, if this recipe looks at all familiar I wrote it to appear on Elaine Boddy’s lovely blog, foodbod, as a finale to her brilliant “What Would You Feed Me” series earlier this year. I wrote it for her, but I really wanted to share it with you too.

Meltingly soft fire-roasted eggplant plus creamy avocado sauce and salty, citrussy yuzu-spiked capers and chickpeas make this as much a meal as an impressive appetizer or dip.

Burnt Aubergines, Avocado-Tahini Sauce and Fried Caper-Chickpeas

  • Servings: 2 as a main and 4 as a starter
  • Difficulty: moderate
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A messy mélange of summer’s-end goodness.

I roasted my aubergines over a charcoal fire, but don’t let wet weather or lack of garden space deter you in making this soft, dippable crush of spiky yet comforting flavours. Alternative methods are cooking the aubergines directly (and I mean directly) on a gas hob, or even in the oven. The latter lacks the – to me – essential smokiness but is a good enough sub as the other flavours put everything together. xx

2 plump, firm aubergines

Rapeseed oil for brushing the aubergines if bbq-ing

1 ripe avocado

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp light tahini

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice + zest of half lemon

Warm water to thin

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle

1 mug of cooked chickpeas

1 tbsp capers, rinsed and patted dry

1 tbsp yuzu powder or yuzu juice (definitely optional but adds floral-citrus zing to the chickpeas)

Cherry tomatoes, chopped

Handful of flat parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges and pitta bread/chips (see below) to serve

The aubergines are the only time-consuming part of this whole foodie affair. The most delicious option is whacking them on a hot barbecue grill.

1. Light your barbecue and once the charcoal or wood goes ashy, pierce the aubergine six times (to stop them potentially exploding, although this is more of a risk in the oven), slick the aubergines with some oil and place on the hottest part of the grill. Allow them to get wrinkled, dark and blistered – turning to cook the whole aubergine. Allow up to 20 minutes to get them shrunken and wrinkled all over. The whole thing should be very soft and perhaps burst in places.. Allow to cool a bit while you get on with everything else.DSC_0289

2. You can also ‘bake’ the pitta chips on the bbq too. Cut a couple of wholemeal pittas around the seam, tear or cut into large bite-sized pieces and lay on the grill, turning as they brown. Or, pop pieces on a baking tray and bake at 180C/350F for 8-10 minutes, until dry and starting to colour.

3. Make the avocado-tahini sauce by putting the avocado, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and zest and about 3 tbsp water in a food processor or blender, blending until smooth. Add more water or lemon juice to make a thickish, dippable sauce.avocado-tahini sauce

4. For the chickpeas, heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat; toss the chickpeas and capers in 1 tbsp oil, adding yuzu powder if you have it; add to the hot pan. Saute the chickpeas and capers until brown in places.

5. To serve, mash the aubergine in their skins (or carefully scrape it out into a bowl), then mash in the avocado sauce to mix. Taste for seasoning. Now top with the chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley, and serve with lemon wedges and pitta chips. Some grilled halloumi on top would also be lovely if you wanted a more substantial and luxurious meal.

burnt aubergine, avocado-tahini sauce, and fried chickpeas and capers

I’m popping this recipe over to Tinned Tomatoes for Meat-Free Monday and to Fuss Free Flavours, Utterly Scrummy and Feeding Boys for Extra Veg.

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