HASlthough the dominant flavors of the chilli oil (habanero and chipotle) take this dish in a Mexican direction, the composition is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s unbeatable formula of flavored yogurt base + roasted aubergines + vibrant toppings. It’s fitting that this recipe, my last in a series of 12, follows that formula, because I wouldn’t be writing this were it not for the fact that, by some inexplicable stroke of luck, I landed in the Ottolenghi test kitchen six years ago and was able to learn from Yotam. He has made a lifelong impression on the way I cook, and this recipe is a case in point.
Eggplant with lime yogurt and tomato, cinnamon and chilli oil
Prep 15 mins
cooking 35 mins
3 eggplants, cut into 2½ cm-thick rounds (800g)
3 tbsp light and mild olive oil (or sunflower oil)
1 tsp fine salt
1 jalapeno, cut into thin rounds (optional)
1 tbsp chives, roughly chopped
For the lime yogurt
350g unsweetened coconut yoghurt – I use the one by The Coconut Collaborative
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated or crushed
1 file – zested, to get 1 tsp, then cut into wedges to serve
⅓ tsp fine salt
For the chilli oil
1½ tbsp sesame seeds
2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken
1 dried habanero chilli (optional)
1 whole star anise
½ small onion, peeled and very finely chopped (40g)
½ tsp fine salt
6 tbsp light and mild olive oil, golden sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
1½ tsp maple syrup
1 tsp sweet paprika (not smoked)
¾ tsp chipotle flakes
¾ tsp pul biber (or aleppo flakes or gochugaru flakes)
½ tsp tomato paste/puree
2 very ripe tomatoes (300g)
Heat the oven to 250C (230C fan)/475F/gas 9+. Put the eggplant in a large bowl with the oil and fine salt, and mix well. Spread out on a large, flat, parchment-lined baking tray and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the tray, flip over each eggplant round and continue to roast for another 10 minutes, or until both sides of each round are a deep golden brown.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the yogurt in a medium bowl and set aside.
To make the chilli oil, spread out the sesame seeds, cinnamon sticks, habanero and star anise in a small frying pan and put on a medium heat. Toast for four minutes, shaking the pan every now and then, until the seeds are golden brown. Tip the seeds on to a plate (leave the cinnamon, habanero and star anise in the pan) and set aside.
Add the onion, salt and two tablespoons of the oil to the pan and return to a medium-high heat. Fry, stirring, for three to three and a half minutes, or until the onion turns golden brown (careful you don’t burn it). Remove from the heat and add the remaining four tablespoons of oil, the garlic, maple syrup, paprika, chipotle, pul biber and tomato paste, and stir well.
Grate the tomatoes on the large holes of a box grate. Add the pulp to a sieve and leave to drain for a minute. Add the drained pulp to the pan with the chilli oil, mix, then return the pan to a medium heat for two minutes, stirring often, until the oil becomes bright red. Discard the habanero, cinnamon sticks and star anise.
Tip the sesame seeds into a mortar with a good pinch of flaked salt and roughly crush to break the seeds and release the flavor, but not so they become powdery. Tip the seeds into the chilli oil and mix.
Spread the yogurt on a platter and top with the aubergines, leaving space between the rounds so you can see the yogurt beneath. Spoon over most of the chilli oil and squeeze over some lime juice. Finish with the jalapeno and chives and serve with lime wedges on the side.