Echoes of the Greek dish moussaka are correctly heard here, both in the name and the feel of the dish. It’s a vegetarian take on the hearty, humble, healthy and completely delicious traybake. Recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley.
It works well either as a veggie main or as a side with all sorts of things: piled into a jacket potato, for example, or served alongside some grilled meat, fish or tofu. It’s just the sort of dish you want to have in the fridge ready to greet you after a day out at work. It’s also lovely at room temperature, so it’s great to pile into the Tupperware for an on-the-go lunch.
5 medium aubergines (eggplants) (1.25kg / 2½ lb) 120ml (4 fl oz) olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped (160g) 6 garlic cloves, crushed 1 tsp chilli flakes 1 tsp ground cumin ½ tsp ground cinnamon 1½ tsp tomato purée 2 green peppers (bell peppers / capsicums), deseeded and cut into 3cm chunks (200g / 7 oz) 1 x 400g (14 oz) tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (240g) 1 x 400g (14 oz) tin of chopped tomatoes 1½ tsp caster (superfine granulated) sugar 15g (½ oz) coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped, plus 5g (just a little) extra to serve 4 plum tomatoes, trimmed and sliced into 1½ cm-thick rounds (350g / 12 oz) Salt and black pepper
1 Preheat the oven to 220°C (410°F) fan.
2 Use a vegetable peeler to peel away strips of aubergine (eggplant) skin from top to bottom, leaving the aubergines with alternating strips of black skin and white flesh, like a zebra. Cut widthways into round slices, 2cm (about 2½ “) thick, and place in a large bowl. Mix well with 75ml (5 tablespoons) of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper and spread out on two large parchment-lined baking sheets (trays). Roast for about 30 minutes, or until completely softened and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
3 Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (375°F) fan.
4 While the aubergines are roasting, make the sauce. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic, chilli, cumin, cinnamon and tomato purée and cook for another minute, or until fragrant. Add the peppers, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, sugar, 200ml (about ¾ of a cup) of water, 1¼ teaspoons of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 18 minutes, or until the peppers have cooked through. Stir in the coriander and remove from the heat.
5 Spread out half the plum tomatoes and half the roasted aubergines on the base of a large baking dish, about 20 x 30cm (8”-11”). Top with the chickpea mixture, then layer with the remaining tomatoes and aubergines. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the tomatoes have completely softened. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Top with the remaining coriander and serve either warm or at room temperature.
Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, $60)
Photography by Jenny Zarins