While in the summer there are a whole host of fresh, bright and light lunch options out there, having something quick, light and imaginative in winter is a lot harder. I'm big on things like warm grain bowls, but another relatively quick and delicious lunch I've been enjoying recently is a roast aubergine. Served hot or warm, the spongy flesh roasts up beautifully into something rich, meaty and satisfying, serving to amplify the flavour of whatever you choose to spoon over it: today, a chunky mixture of anchovy, walnut and parsley, brightened with a flash of fresh lemon, all bound together with a glug of your very best extra virgin olive oil.
The time I made an aubergine and walnut pesto to stir into penne taught me how well the two go together, and the umami of the anchovy really seeps into the aubergine flesh. This stupidly easy dish is inspired by a similar side dish from Diana Henry's latest book Simple. Her original uses eight aubergines but I wanted to change this into a serves one, so I had to ditch a few ingredients, and I also tried to make this something easy for all of you to make that did not involve much shopping. While I love white balsamic vinegar, for example, I barely use it in any dishes, so I left it out as I did not want to send you running out for a bottle!
I make this for just me (it takes, at most, half an hour) but it would also make a lovely vegetable side for a couple of grilled lamb cutlets between two, or you can multiply it up, and serve it on a platter alongside roast lamb and a few more veggies if you're inviting people over for Sunday lunch.
- 1 Small Aubergine (Eggplant)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3-4 Anchovy Fillets, packed in oil
- Sea Salt (I use Fleur de Sel from Brittany)
- Large Handful Shelled Walnuts
- Very Large Handful Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
- Dash Maple Syrup
- 1/4 Lemon
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (395 fahrenheit). With a sharp knife, half the aubergine and score the flesh on the diagonal, taking care not to pierce the skin underneath so that they stay lovely and juicy while they're roasting. Roast, cut size up and rubbed generously with extra virgin olive oil for half an hour until the flesh is soft and slightly browned.
Meanwhile, pound the anchovies with a pinch of sea salt in a mortar and pestle (I swear by this one) until they form a paste. Add the walnuts, and pound until you have a sort of chunky paste. Stir in the parsley, another good glug of olive oil, and a very small dash of maple syrup. Add lemon juice to taste (cut any spare into wedges to serve) and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve the aubergines in a warm bowl, cut side up, with this mixture spooned over the top.