At this time of year I find it hard to resist aubergines (eggplants). There’s something about those glossy black skins, inside which lurks some surprisingly seductive flesh. I try to keep a few in the fridge for when we’ve finished grilling and there’s enough fire left in the barbecue”s belly to cook at least another whole chicken. On go the aubergines (whole, pricked with a skewer otherwise they explode) and I have the makings of baba ghanoush. Alternatively, if I’ve sliced them lengthwise and anointed them with oil, I use them for moussaka, or ratatouille.
Better still, they’re pressed into service for this recipe, inspired by one from Honey & Co. which makes a seriously gorgeous starter, or part of a mezze table, or to go with roast or barbecued lamb or chicken. The sliced, oiled, grilled aubergines are filled with the end pieces of aubergine fried up with onion, plus cream cheese (my addition – helps to hold things together more comprehensively), toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds, rolled up and finished with a crunchy shower of more pomegranate seeds.
Aubergine Rolls with Cream Cheese, Toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate Seeds
Serves 4 for a starter or 6 as a side dish
3 aubergines – about 1kg
Plenty of olive oil for brushing aubergine slices
Salt and pepper
1 large spring onion or small red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
50g walnuts, toasted till fragrant in a dry pan (no extra oil)
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or Balsamic glaze
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
75g cream cheese
Seeds from 1 pomegranate (about 100g)
Using a long, very sharp knife, cut the aubergines in lengthwise slices about 1 cm thick – you should get 5 or 6 slices per aubergine. Set aside the outside (rounded) slices. Sprinkle the remaining slices with salt, cover with kitchen towels to absorb juice and leave for an hour or so.
While the aubergines are salting, start on the filling: chop the outside slices in small cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan, soften the onion and when it is soft, add the aubergine cubes. Season with salt and pepper and cover the pan. Leave to stew gently for about 10 minutes or until the aubergine is soft. Scrape into a dish and let cool.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and heat the oven to 200C, if possible with top (infrared grill) heat also. (Or heat the barbecue to maximum.) Pat the slices dry, lay them on the baking sheet and brush with oil (or lay on the barbecue). You may need to do this in two batches.
Bake/grill them till they take a little colour, then turn and bake/grill the other sides. Don’t overdo this – they must remain pliable or you’ll have trouble rolling them. Continue with the remaining slices in the same way.
To finish the filling, place the toasted walnuts (reserve some to garnish) in the food processor and process roughly. Add the cooled aubergine cubes, pomegranate molasses or Balsamic glaze, cream cheese and parsley. Process in short bursts to a rough paste. Stir in half the pomegranate seeds.
Place a blob of filling on the grilled aubergine slices, roll up and place on a dish lined with lettuce leaves. Scatter the reserved chopped walnuts and the remaining pomegranate seeds on top. Chill the rolls till serving time.