Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Dressing recipe – inspired by the book-cover from Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s Middle-eastern Plenty. This is the perfect show-stopper when having guests over.
You know they say don’t judge a book by its cover – clearly, this post isn’t about that! Being a book hoarder, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that sometimes I succumb to using recipes online. But there’s some books I turn to time and again (more than others), not just for their recipes and glorious imagery, but for a refreshing perspective on creating something flavorful with the simplest of ingredients. I have owned chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks (yes, all of them) for a while, but attempting to re-create this cover page star recipe seemed like the perfect ode to a chef who’s one of my biggest cooking-inspirations.
All of Ottolenghi’s books hold a special place on my bookshelf – the recipes are well written, with a solid emphasis on getting creative with vegetables and there’s a great mix of ingredient combinations and flavors that serve as the building blocks to gain a deeper appreciation for the cuisine and its people. Every time I feel a slump in my home cooking and need a little jump-start, I pick one of Ottolenghi’s books – Jerusalem or Plenty (usually) and it always manages to make me enthusiastic about experimenting.
The bright pops of pink pomegranate invite you – the eggplant has this perfect smoky-meaty texture that pairs beautifully with the creaminess of the labneh, the specks of garlic and zaatar round off all the flavors nicely. I can see why this made it to the cover of Plenty – it truly encapsulates all things middle-eastern.
This turned out to be the centre-piece of my middle-eastern themed dinner for friends – there was also the roasted cauliflower & red onion salad with sumac and a slow cooked chicken tagine with bread. So many textures, so many flavors – all exotic to the Indian taste buds. But once you embrace the novelty, it will slowly creep up into your kitchen and make its place on your dinner table, as it has on ours.
Recipe adapted from Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s cook book “Plenty”
- 1 large or 2 Eggplant - medium
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1.5 tsp Thyme Dried
- 5 cloves Garlic (finely minced)
- 2 tbsp Labneh
- 2 tbsp Buttermilk
- 1 cup pomegranate pearls
- to taste black pepper Freshly cracked
- to taste Sea Salt
Slowly slice the eggplants into equal halves through the stalk. From the top of the flesh right up until the skin, make slits to resemble diamond shapes ( see image above).
Brush these with olive oil and sprinkle the dried thyme, sea salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 200xb0C and roast the eggplants for about 30-40 minutes. After the 20 minute mark, check every 10 minutes to ensure the flesh doesn't burn. When it looks done, remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.
To make the dressing, whisk together the labneh and buttermilk to get a smooth velvety consistency. Add the minced garlic, zaatar, pepper and sea salt to taste.
Just before serving, pour over the eggplant, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and a pinch of zaatar.