Lentils with Grilled Aubergine

Yep, you caught me…another Yottam Ottolenghi recipe! I almost didn’t to try and keep the variety but it does work perfectly for this weeks boxes and even for the lingering celery stick from last week. It is a personal favourite from ‘Plenty’ (though I can’t claim the credit for the image or its cooking of-that was Colin Campbell/Guardian). Whilst Ottolenghi can be known for requiring less commonly used ingredients, some of my favourites such as this are simpler, focussing on quality ingredients treated well and he knows his pulses! He recommends serving warm or at room temperature and to make sure to pierce the aubergines if using under the grill or risk a thunderous explosion! If you are using the gas hob method…don’t clean it just before making this as even with foil it can get a bit messy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)
2 medium aubergines
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp top-quality red-wine vinegar
200g small dark lentils, such as puy or castelluccio, washed and drained
3 small carrots, peeled
2 celery sticks
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
½ white onion
3½ tbsp olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp each roughly chopped parsley, coriander and dill
2 tbsp crème fraîche (vegan or dairy, or natural yogurt, vegan or dairy)

MethodTo cook the aubergines on a gas hob, which is the most effective way, start by lining the area around the hob heads with foil to protect them. Put the aubergines directly on two moderate flames and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs, until the flesh is soft and smoky and the skin is burnt all over. Keep an eye on them the whole time so they don’t catch fire. For an electric cooker, pierce the aubergines with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil lined tray and place directly under a hot grill for 1 hour turning them a few times. The aubergines need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.

Remove the aubergines from the heat. If you used an oven grill, change the oven to its normal setting. Heat the oven to 140 degrees C/Gas Mark 1. Cut a slit down the centre of the aubergines and scoop the flesh into a colander, avoiding the black skin. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and only then season with plenty of salt and pepper and 1/2 tbsp of the vinegar.

While the aubergines are grilling, place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cut one carrot and half a celery stick into large chunks and throw them in. Add the bay leaf, thyme and onion, cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for up to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, skimming away the froth from the surface from time to time. Drain in a sieve. Remove and discard the carrot, bay leaf, celery, onion and thyme and transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper; stir and set aside somewhere warm.

Cut the remaining carrot and celery into 1cm dice and mix with the tomatoes, the remaining oil, the sugar and some salt. Spread in an oven proof dish and cook in the oven for about 20 mins or until the carrot is tender but still firm.

Add the cooked vegetables to the warm lentils, followed by the chopped herbs and stir gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto serving plates. Pile some aubergine in the centre of each portion and top it with a dollop of crème fraiche or yoghurt. Finish with a trickle of oil.