Creamy Charred Eggplant

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I got this idea from a recipe in Yottam Ottolenghi’s drool-worthy vegetarian cookbook Plenty. In his recipe, he makes this creamy eggplant puree to top braised puy lentils – I just took the eggplant bit of the recipe and have used it here to top a salad made of giant couscous, with some spicy lamb sausages on the side.

All you do is grill eggplant (one medium eggplant per person is about right) in a hot oven until the skin is blackened and charred (about an hour). Make sure you prick the eggplants in a few places prior to cooking, lest they explode in the oven! You can also char them over a gas hob, but I’m too afraid of the resulting mess, to be honest. Once the skin is all burnt, you just scoop out the creamy flesh and leave behind the skin. Let the flesh drain in a sieve for 10-15 mins, then stir in some extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and a little sea salt. You could do more here – garlic, sumac, cumin, fennel seed – but just with the olive oil and lemon juice the eggplant puree was tasty as hell in its seductively smoky way. By topping a salad with this puree, you’re adding a meat-free yet meaty element to the dish and creating a filling meal.

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