Cooking, Light Bites, Salad, Vegetarian
comments 17

Burnt aubergine with sweet peppers and red onion

I have a confession to make! I published this post last weekend, and a few hours later a trusted friend queried my photograph, thinking that it didn’t do the dish justice. I took a look, and sure enough, they were right. It was like going out to work hungover and slightly frazzled wearing something that you think looks ok, and realising slowly that it was a horrible choice, ill fitting, and irritating for the rest of the day. So I took it down. I made the dish again today, same recipe, and here’s the post. In my defence, I made this dish for a friend and drank lots of wine as I was cooking (as did they!). So, lesson learned, don’t take food photographs drunk, and don’t rush blog posts!

One of my indulgences is cookbooks, I love them, and I have a ridiculous amount. Some are  very well thumbed with weakening spines, others are neglected, bought out of curiosity and never properly investigated. I love concocting my own food and creating recipes, but I also love to cook from cookbooks, entering the culinary head of another, and seeing how they do things.

A lot of the cookbooks that I have been buying in the last few years are from restaurants and cafes that I really like. Often they’re not as impressive as the restaurant they are associated with, but as always, there are exceptions. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is one.

I was very excited about this one. I worked reasonably close to the Islington branch for a number of years and would occasionally treat myself to a delicious lunch. When Yotam Ottolenghi started writing recipes in the Guardian I was always enthralled with his approach and combinations. Coming from Israel with a Palestinian business partner, there are some wonderful influences from that region. The first time I used orange blossom water was when I made an Ottolenghi salad and it was a revelation. He uses colour and flavour wonderfully, I remember reading sovewhere that if a dish doesn’t look great, it doesn’t matter how great it tastes, you won’t get it at Ottolenghi.

I’ve had the cookbook since it was published and I really don’t use it enough. I frequently dip in, for inspiration or just a good read, and a flick through the gorgeous pictures. I decided I really should start, and I can safely say after just one recipe, the book is well and truly broken in with splatters and thumb prints all over the page. Ah well.

Burnt aubergine is a gorgeous, intensely savoury flavour. It’s fantastic in a vegetarian dish as it confers a depth that could otherwise be difficult to achieve. I flicked through the book and came across a lovely recipe for a salad including this, so I endeavoured to adapt and try it with the ingredients I had.


Burning an aubergine is as easy as it sounds. Rest the aubergine on a gas flame and burn it, turning it as each side is done until complete. Don’t worry if the skin splits, it happens a lot. Let it cool a little and peel the skin off, or scoop out the inside after cutting it in two. Drain in a colander for an hour or so then chop.

The rest of the salad is very straight forward, a simple dressing, some delicate spicing (cumin). This would be wonderful for a BBQ or similar summer event with the sweetness of the peppers and tartness of the tomatoes.

I altered the proportions of the recipe with two different colour peppers and a little less aubergine and tomatoes. I really liked it, and am very much looking forward to trying more of his recipes, and eating there again.


1 large aubergine, burnt as described above, drained and chopped
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
a handful of small fruity cherry tomatoes or similar, halved
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped


5 tbsp sunflower oil or similar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp fresh cumin, toasted and ground or 3 tsp ground cumin (the first option is infinitely preferable)

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper


First, make the dressing and check the taste and adjust if necessary.
Mix the other ingredients and add the dressing. Season with S&P to taste and serve.

This is really nice with khobez, pittas or similar.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook




  1. The Ottolenghi cookbook is on my wish list. My cook book shelf is full and encroaching on all the other book shelves now so I have tried to curb my cook book purchasing of late. However…

    Aubergines might possibly be my favourite vegetable (or are they a fruit because of the seeds?!). I make an aubergine and tomato soup with the aubergines done this way and it gives it the most amazing flavour.

  2. I, too, have a huge cookbook collection and usually treat them as an alternative to fiction. I find certain recipes that fit into what I’m already cooking but don’t go much beyond that. I’ve been thinking that I should take them, one by one, and actually cook from them- like you did.

    This recipe looks and sounds amazing- just the type of food that I love eating in the summer or whenever I want to remember summer. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great minds…I, too, have the Ottolenghi cookbook and I’ve dipped in but don’t use it enough. This recipe looks fab – and it’s a excellent nudge towards digging out the book again. Thank you!

  4. fingersandtoes says

    Just got the Ottolenghi cookbook today and I’m making the Roasted aubergine with saffron yoghurt – I happened to have all of the ingredients at hand except the pomegranate seeds, and luckily the corner shop sells pomegranates. Waiting for the aubergines to cool now…

  5. If I don’t get this Ottolenghi book soon I will be really annoyed – between you and Browners your Ottolenghi posts have shown it’s obviously a must-buy!

  6. My copy of the Ottolenghi book arrived from Amazon this morning! I am struggling to concentrate on work right now…

    I think I’m going to make the parmesan and poppy biscuits for my UKFBA stall at the Covent Garden Real Food Market this Thursday. I had them at The Underground Restaurant and they were delicious – so moreish!

  7. I’m a big fan of aubergines, thanks for sharing that delicious recipe. i’m leaving to Istanbul in two weeks and aubergine will be my Mojo for two weeks. Turkish food is heaven!

  8. This looks lovely (def worth the repeat photo). Burnt aubergine isn’t the prettiest thing so making it look good is no mean feat. I imagine sweet peppers are a great complement to the smoky aubergine flavour.

    I *heart* the Ottolenghi book too. I’m always vaguely surprised when I remember that I haven’t made more than a handful of recipes from it. Too busy looking at the pics.

  9. eve says

    Ottolenghi was a xmas present. I love it. Sent it as a present to canada last week and received, almost immediately, thanks accompanied by fotos of finished dishes. Last night we ate his beetroot,meatballs,butterbeans and the kisir recipe he published in the Guardian. Wow, it is good. Have not tried the burnt aubergine but will do soon. Can recommend the turkey meatballs with roasted pepper dip. How can turkey mince taste this good? Must be the number of ingredients involved in this and every recipe of his.
    Did you make the pitta? Have just cracked how to do it or rather my breadmaking husband has.

  10. Kitchen Goddess says

    I love this cookbook, everything I’ve made has been delicious. Your dish looks stunning Niamh :)

  11. LOL – I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who posts in haste and repents at leisure ;-) Ottolenghi’s book is the best – I also have it and don’t use it often enough. And now that I finally have a gas stove, I can make these burnt aubergines – hurrah!

  12. Think I must have missed the ‘original’ post on this, but the dish is quite similar to the Indian/Bengali baigun bhata. This uses lots of mustard oil in which is pretty powerful!
    In fact I think Gastrogeek had a post on it recently….

  13. Lovely picture. I love burnt aubergine. Have you tried feeding this to Chris? Well done Ottolenghi. Another triumph.

  14. Great post! I have the Ottolenghi cookbook and while some of the recipes seem quite tricky, this one sounds pretty easy. I am definitely going to have to try it out soon.
    Quick question for you… how would you recommend burning the aubergine if you don’t have a gas burner? Thanks!

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