Baked Aubergines with Garlic and Lemon
November 3, 2008
After a week in Cyprus I’m craving sun.
Cyprus was dry and dusty, the hills white with sparse trees, here where the Mediterranean met the Middle East. October, like May, is the perfect time to visit; it’s hot enough to swim but nothing like as sweltering and humid as high summer.
We spent almost all our time outside, from early morning tea on the balcony, looking out at the pale blue line of sea, to dinner under the bougainvillea. Maybe it was the fresh air, but everything we ate had that much more flavour than supermarket-bought food. I suppose it would do, having been grown locally and ripened naturally, rather than flown in from the other side of the planet.
There was plenty everywhere, even in such a dry climate, roadside shops overflowing with the choicest Mediterranean fruit and vegetables, from fat juicy tomatoes to tiny crisp cucumbers, grapes, pomegranates and peppers.
Also in season were aubergines (or eggplants if you prefer..or brinjal, in India). I love them, but in general they elicit mixed views, since they can end up rather tasteless and mushy. Salting them before cooking does get rid of some of their wateriness, but more vital is how they’re cooked.
They work well barbecued, fat slices brushed with olive oil placed directly onto the barbecue grill for just a few minutes on each side. Or you can cook them in the oven, as I did this dish, but with only a little oil and at a high temperature, so the aubergines end up slightly blackened at the edges and with a dark smoky flavour.
Baked Aubergines with Garlic and Lemon, for 2
2 aubergines (about 500g)
half a bulb of garlic
2-3 tbs olive oil
Set the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Top and tail the aubergines and cut them into long fat chips, by slicing them lengthwise and then halving those slices. Put them into a roasting pan along with the garlic cloves – there should be 7 or 8 of these and they can go in as they are, unpeeled. Sprinkle over the olive oil, squeeze on the lemon and give it all a generous salting.
Bake for about 20 minutes. Ovens vary a great deal, so if the aubergines look mushy or bland, give them a few minutes under the grill – they need to be slightly charred.
You may need to add more salt once cooked. This ultra lemony dish works even better eaten cold, alongside something like a tomato salad and feta cheese.