Creamy soft, golden-brown caramelised aubergines with a distinct perfume of thyme, finished with fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil and a couple of Maldon salt crystals for that extra crunch.
These aubergines are extremely easy to make, with only a few ingredients and hands-on steps required, but are incredibly tasty with a real WOW factor due to their beautiful thyme perfume. The diamond-cut aubergine halves are salted and left to 'sweat' for a little, are dried, coated with olive oil, and then oven-roasted on a bed of thyme until tender, golden-brown, caramelised and beautifully fragrant.
A recent Rouxbe exercise for oven-roasting, we liked them so much, that I've made them now for the second time in two weeks. They can be served whole as light lunch or dinner, or as a side with other dishes, grilled meats or BBQs. Or scooped out of their skin and mashed up a little, and served as a dip or spread with bread. When roasted properly, the smooth, silky and creamy flesh can be eaten right out of the skin with a fork. We like them, two halves each, served in their skins on our plates; they need absolutely nothing on the side. Having said that, this time I added a couple of slices of smokey Italian Scamorza cheese on the plate, and the combination was lovely (omit for a pure plant-based version)! Important: make sure not to skip the salting of the aubergines before roasting. The salt will draw out a lot of the aubergines' moisture and bitterness, and adds the perfect seasoning to the finished dish.
Recipe source: Roasted Eggplant, by Dawn T. @ROUXBE
Serves 2 as a light main course, or 4 as a side dish:
2 aubergines (mine were medium, just a little over 300g each)
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Fine sea salt
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
Optional (omit for a pure plant-based version): a couple of slices of smokey Italian Scamorza cheese
Wash the aubergines and pat them dry. Cut them in half lengthwise. Score the inside flesh in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife all the way down to the skin, but making sure not to actually cut through the skin.
Sprinkle the cut aubergine halves with sea salt. Spread the cuts open so that the salt goes well inside the cuts. Let the aubergine halves sit for 30 minutes to draw out their water.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C/180°C fan.
Turn the aubergine halves upside down over the sink or a bowl and squeeze gently to remove their juices, then pat the surfaces dry with paper towels. Give the insides of the aubergines a good brush of olive oil.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, then arrange the thyme sprigs on the tray in four piles.
Place the aubergine halves cut-side down on top of the thyme sprigs, keeping some distance between them so that they roast evenly.
Place the tray on the centre shelf of the oven and bake for approximately 45-60 minutes, or until the aubergines start to collapse, the flesh is soft and their cut sides golden-brown. My medium-size aubergines took 45 minutes.
Serve with a little lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top, and a small sprinkle of Maldon salt. Optional (omit for a pure plant-based version): add a couple of slices of smoked Scamorza cheese on the side.