A boldly dramatic side dish, this easy way with eggplant is substantial enough to stand on its own.
I've previously published my way with baby eggplants and been encouraged by the response to it to offer up my favourite treatment of their full-grown versions. It's a simple transformation that ratchets up an already wonderful vegetable to another level.
There's something compelling about the smoky depth that eggplant achieves after a roundtrip through the oven, so unexpected, really, when you encounter that pale, spongey flesh in its raw form.
Against the thick slabs of meltingly soft eggplant, a hit of spicy fire in the form of harissa. You can make your own – a two-minute job – with my raw harissa recipe, perfect here, or use a good quality paste from a jar. To cool the fire, but still with a sprightly life of its own, a dollop of minted yoghurt.
As you can see, this makes for a dramatic side dish, although it's so substantial – meaty, even – just the way it is that I prefer it on its own, sometimes as a theatrical starter, more often as a standalone little Middle Eastern–flavoured feast in miniature. To follow, and as balance to its boldness, something delicate and sweet: rose panna cotta, headily scented and dreamily voluptuous, would be my go-to dessert.
1 tablespoon harissa
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt flakes, to serve
lemon wedges, to serve
for the minted yoghurt:
125ml (½ cup) Greek yoghurt
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Set your oven to 200°C (400°F).
Slice the eggplants in half lengthways. Score a criss-cross pattern into the flat side with the point of a knife. Place them cut side up on a baking tray.
Mix the olive oil and harissa together in a small bowl or cup. Divide between the eggplants, spreading with the back of a spoon. Roast for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the mint and mix into the yoghurt.
When the eggplants are ready, sprinkle with a little sea salt and transfer to plates. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over and a generous dollop of the minted yoghurt.