Ok, so I missed national vegetarian week, which was a couple of weeks ago, but that I’m making up for it this week. So far my blog has been a little light on Vegtarian dishes and I would like to redress the balance. I’ve no intention of following a vegetarian only diet but I do love veggies and am more than happy to eat meat free meals. In fact, we try to have at least one vegetarian dish a week, as it is good for our health and often eat more. Let’s face it, you can never eat too many vegetables and vegetarian dishes can be good for our purse too. Not forgetting, they can taste pretty darn good and roast aubergine with saffron rice is no exception.
At the moment I have a bit of a thing about aubergines – I really like them and I have been using them more and more frequently (in fact I have another aubergine recipe I am going to share with you soon). This dish couldn’t be simpler. To cook, I just scored the aubergine with a knife and rubbed in some ras-el-hanout (a north African spice mix) before drizzling with a little oil. The aubergine is then roasted in the oven for 45 minutes. The result: a lovely, tender aubergine with a spicy coating. Yum!
Have you tried ras-el-hanout? I really like it. It’s a classic spice mixture used in Moroccan cuisine. The name means ‘top of the shop’, which perhaps reflect that spices were once expensive ingredients. The blends vary from cook to cook but most contain more than 20 different spices, including allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and nutmeg as well as rose petals which give it a very slight floral flavour. It can contain up to 100 spices though. I use a blend from Waitrose or bart spices but if you can not find it you can make your own. BBC Good Food has a recipe for it here
Roast aubergine with saffron rice
To turn this dish into a complete meal, I have served the roasted aubergine with saffron rice. The rice cooks while the aubergine is roasting so you can have a meal on the table in less than an hour with very little hands on prep which makes it a simple meal for after work. You could, if you prefer, serve it with plain rice or couscous but I think the saffron rice compliments the aubergine well. I have added some dried apricots and almonds to the rice, but you could equally add other dried fruit such as prunes or sultanas and different nuts.
Finally, I think a simple yogurt and chive sauce rounds the dish off perfectly.
roast aubergine with saffron rice step by step
- 2 medium aubergines
- 4 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
- 4 tsp ras el hanout
- 150 ml full fat natural yogurt ¼pt
- small cove garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp snipped chives
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 25 g butter 1oz
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 175 g long grain rice 6oz
- 50 g dried apricots 2oz, chopped into small pieces
- pinch of saffron
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- 25 g flaked almonds 1oz, toasted
- chopped parsley to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200℃/180℃ fan/gas mark 6. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and score the flesh into a diamond patter with a small sharp knife taking care not to cut through the skin.
Sprinkle 1 tsp of ras el hanout over each aubergine and gently rub into the flesh with your fingers to coat the surface.
Place the aubergine halves on a baking tray and drizzle each half with 1 tsp of oil. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until very tender.
Make the yogurt sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and set aside until required.
When the aubergines have been in the oven for about 15–20 minutes, start to cook the saffron rice. Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently sauté the onion until just softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Stir in the rice and cook one more minute, then add the apricots, saffron and stock. Bring to the boil.
Stir well. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Reduce the heat to as low as possible and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave covered to stand for a further 5 minutes.
To serve, fluff up the rice with a fork and spoon onto serving plates. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and chopped parsley. Serve the aubergine on the side and drizzle with some of the yogurt sauce. Serve the remaining sauce separately.