First, on naming – they’re aubergines to some, eggplant to others and brinjal to others still. You know the things I mean though – purple, sheeny and strangely lovely to hold (or is that just me?) It’s a little known fact that they’re also low in fat and calories but practically ooze the B-complex vitamins required for metabolizing fat, protein and carbs. Ooh, they get better and better the more you think about them…
Thanks to the blessed powers of the Internet, we found a way of cooking them with minimum effort but maximum taste. With big thanks to Stone Soup, who based her recipe on one from Nigel Slater (this is clearly a caring, sharing recipe), we added a quick, easy and absolutely delicious cashew nut pesto to give it an added protein boost.
Note: readers ask us occasionally if it’s necessary to salt aubergines. The happy answer is NO! They were more bitter in the old days but the varieties grown now have had their bitter-twistedness grown out. This is great news, as there are clearly better things to spend your time on that salting aubergines…
Other note: you can make this dish vegan if you use Engevita yeast instead of cheese in the pesto.
Roast Aubergine With Cashew Nut Pesto
For the roasted aubergines:
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 large aubergines, halved lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & ground black pepper to taste
For the pesto:
2 large handfuls fresh basil
3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
50g cashew nuts
50g Parmesan-style cheese
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Salt and black pepper to taste
To roast the aubergines
1 Preheat the oven to 220C (425F, Gas 7, Fan 200C)
2 In a shallow ovenproof dish (a roasting tin will do if you don’t have ceramic), pour the tomatoes, mix in the tomato puree and season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper.
3 Cut a deep criss cross pattern in each slice of aubergine.
4 Spread the thin slices of garlic evenly on top of them and drizzle the olive oil all over the aubergines (not the tomatoes, though it doesn’t matter if some spills over the edges).
5 Cook for 45-60 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned and the aubergines are soft and starting to collapse a bit (or ‘meltingly tender’, as Stone Soup puts it – and she’s right).
Cashew Nut Pesto
1 Pulse the cashews in a food processor or with a hand blender until they’re broken up into small pieces. Be careful though – this happens quicker than you’d think and you can end up with cashew powder if you’re not careful!
2 Add all of the other ingredients except the olive oil. NOTE: use only one clove of garlic to start with – it can overwhelm the taste of fresh pesto so it’s best to take it steady.
3 Slowly add the olive oil, pulsing until the desired consistency is reached. Add more if you lie it on the runny side.
Serve together with a crisp salad or steamed green vegetables. Goes well with brown rice or baked sweet potato if you’d like an extra carb kick.