aubergines with tomatoes and coriander

last week i had four aubergines that needed using up. thankfully i remembered this wonderful nigel slater dish, which used up half of them.

he describes it as a “hot, clean and vibrant, a mouth-popping stew for scooping up with soft warm naan, or rice” and it is the sort of dish that i can easily become obsessed with – i think i made it weekly when i first found the recipe (back in 2003 apparently) and go through phases when i remember it and overindulge then need a break.

aubergines can be tricky and this is the first dish that i remember making which cooks them quite quickly and still tastes delicious – previously i’d had problems with quick-cook dishes and had decided that long and slow was the way forward. i think part of the reason this dish works so well as “a quick dish” is because the aubergines are salted and set aside for half an hour before rinsing and then cooking. traditionally aubergines were salted to draw out bitter juices, which is something that modern varieties don’t need. however, it does soften them and this is why it’s a step worth keeping in with some recipes (this being a prime example).

the chillies i used in this were fierce which meant i needed to add some greek yoghurt to cool things down. whether or not you need or want to do the same is up to you. ideally i’d make it without.

nigel slater’s aubergines with tomatoes and coriander serves 4

2 medium-large aubergines

sea salt

a piece of ginger about the size of your thumb

4 cloves garlic

juice of a large lemon

4 medium-sized tomatoes

2 small, hot, red chillies

a large bunch of coriander (about 40g)

4 tbsps groundnut oil

cut the stalks from the aubergines and discard. slice each fruit in two lengthways, then again, then cut the long strips into short fat chunks. put these in a colander and sprinkle generously with sea salt. leave them for a good 30 minutes.

peel the ginger and garlic and chop finely. put them into the jug of a blender (or the bowl of a food processor) along with the lemon juice. whiz till you have a smoothish puree.

roughly chop the tomatoes. slice the chilli thinly, keeping the seeds. roughly chop most of the coriander.

rinse the aubergines and pat them dry. warm the oil in a large pan, then, when it starts to sizzle, add the aubergines, letting them colour on their cut edges, turning them over so that they are golden all over.

tip in the garlic and ginger paste and stir to coat. mix in the tomatoes and chilli, shortly followed by the coriander and 4 tablespoons water. season with salt and leave to simmer gently for 4 or 5 minutes. taste for seasoning, check the aubergines for tenderness, they should be soft to the point of collapse, and serve with warm naan to mop it up.

optional: should you want something richer and less spicy, then stir in a tub of yogurt, about 250g, at the end, then simmer for a further 7 or 8 minutes.