Persians love aubergines and -- for me -- they are the meat of the vegetable world. If I were to ever become a vegetarian, I’d quite happily gorge myself silly on them. Smoking aubergines allows the flesh to absorb a deep smokiness, giving incredible depth to a dish. Hailing from the Gilan province of northern Iran, mirza ghasemi features on the menus of Persian restaurants all around the world.
6 large aubergines
vegetable or olive oil
2 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled, bashed and thinly sliced
1 heaped tsp turmeric
6 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
4 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp caster sugar
3 heaped tsp crushed sea salt
3 medium free-range eggs, beaten
handful of broken walnut pieces, to garnish
The most authentic way to prepare the aubergines is to blister them whole over an open flame (either on a barbecue or over a domestic gas hob) until blackened and the flesh has softened right through to the centre. Alternatively, place them in a roasting tin and roast them whole in a preheated oven at 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7 for 40-45 minutes.
Put a good drizzle of oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat and slowly cook the garlic slices, ensuring you cook them through rather than simply browning them. If they start to brown too quickly, take the pan off the heat and allow the residual heat to cook them through, if necessary. Once the garlic begins to brown around the edges, stir in the turmeric. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for about 15–20 minutes, or until they break down and are cooked through, then turn off the heat and set the pan aside.
Once cooked, score the aubergine skin from stalk to base and scoop out the flesh using a large spoon. Stir this into the garlic and tomatoes. Place the pan over a medium-high heat and cook through for a few minutes, mashing a little as you go. Lastly, add the tomato purée, sugar and sea salt, stir well and cook for a further 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning.
Make lots of little holes in the aubergine mixture and pour the beaten eggs straight into the pan, but do not stir in the egg. You want to ensure the eggs are cooking and solidifying before you incorporate them –- they take about 6 minutes to become opaque. Once cooked, give the mixture one final stir and remove the pan from the heat. Leave the mixture to cool for 20 minutes, as this dish is best served warm rather than piping hot. Garnish with walnut pieces and serve with Persian Flatbread.
From Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour, Interlink 2014.
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