If I had to describe this dish in one sentence, I’d say it’s like listening to opera whilst doing circuit training in a tutu.
Now, taken literally, you could assume that this dish makes you feel like an utter idiot, which is not my intention. But if you look beyond that superficial lunacy, at the component elements, they all represent something within the dish to give you an idea of it’s characteristics. The harissa is the circuit training, the hit of spice that makes you sweat and gives the dish a kick. The opera is the mixed drama and high notes of the coriander, mint and lemon that give a bright, liberating, romantic flavour. And finally, the aubergine is the tutu, soft, silky and bringing it all together.
By this point you might be feeling sorry for the poor bulgur wheat, for not getting a headline mention, but it’s not forgotten. It plays a key supporting role, not to be underestimated as the stage manager, hidden away, making sure everything hit’s the right spot at the right time and frankly, the show wouldn’t happen without it.
All of this extravagant metaphor might seem like an decidedly floral way of describing this dish but I hope you can forgive me for it, because this dish just became my number one creation since starting the blog. The marriages of bold flavours in this dish just seem to work beautifully together, and inspire such ridiculous comparisons as my first sentence.
As we eke our way into whatever form of summer the English climate chooses to bestow upon us this year, aubergines start to become a regular fixture in my diet. Their bulbous, light, summery behaviour is utterly endearing when the weather warms up and recently I’ve realised there’s only one approach to cooking them – on a high heat. If it’s in the oven, use a high temperature. If you’re griddling them, keep it hot, and if it’s the BBQ, I want char-grilled. I want to see that pale, insipid flesh take on a charred or browned appearance. I’ll visit all of these methods over the next few weeks as I have a few more stunning aubergine recipes up my sleeve, ready to roll out once I’ve cooked, photographed and written about them.
The first in the high-cooking-temperature summer aubergine series is this recipe, using your oven on it’s highest temperature, it’s my harissa and herb aubergine with bulgur.
Harissa and herb aubergine with bulgur
By Gavin Wren
Uses 2 baking sheets and a mixing bowl
2 large, firm, shiny aubergines
75g wholemeal bulgur wheat
1 tablespoon harissa
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 Lemon, juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
17g Mint leaves, roughly chopped
17g Coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, then slice into 1.5cm thick pieces, so you end up with lots of semi-circular chunks. Put in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil (you can use this bowl again to mix it at the end)
Lay greaseproof paper on one or two baking sheets (dependent on size) and stand all of the aubergine slices up on their skin, with a gap between them all. By standing them up and giving them space, you allow the heat of the oven to circulate over the flesh and cook the aubergine more effectively.
Place in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until nicely browned – this will depend on your oven so keep an eye on them.
Meanwhile, cook the bulgur as per the pack instructions.
Mix the harissa, 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice and garlic together in a glass/jar/shaker.
When the aubergine is cooked, place it in a large bowl, add the bulgur, stir, then add the dressing and herbs and mix gently.