Cost: £2, including the basil, but living basil is quite happy in a sunny spot indoors, so hopefully you would only need to buy this once!
Roasted aubergines, slightly charred without, silk and velvet within, are topped with a rough but fragrant pesto whizzed up in the food processor. This quick vegetarian side dish is nut-, gluten- and dairy-free. We served it as part of a buffet lunch on Easter Sunday, where everyone helped themselves – served alongside slow roast lamb, jewelled couscous, roasted sesame cauliflower, halloumi salad, garlic and coriander hearthbreads, homemade hummus and cherry tomato salsa. A few people very kindly and politely asked for the recipe – and I am delighted to give it out!
Recipe: Aubergine Basil Salad
The aubergine and garlic can be roasted in advance and refrigerated overnight, but the rough pesto should be made just before serving. The aubergine should be at room temperature before adding the pesto so that the pesto does not blacken.
2 aubergines, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1-inch slices
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled but with the top bit chopped off to give a bit of a gap in the papery skin
Handful of fresh basil (e.g. 30g), washed and patted dry with a tea towel or paper towel
1Tbsp pine nuts (optional)
1. Shake the diced aubergine in a colander with a generous amount of salt (cheap table salt is fine, and think at least a few tablespoons) and leave it to rest over a bowl whilst you preheat the oven to 200 (non-fan). You might already be using the oven to slow-cook your meat or roast other vegetables, in which case leave the aubergines for 20 minutes or so; some brownish liquid should drain off them during this time. It’s true that aubergines do not need salting to draw out their bitterness – this step is included to soften them and ensure that they roast to a silky collapsing texture.
2. Loosely package the garlic in foil, drizzling in a bit of olive oil. When the oven is hot, stick the foil-wrapped garlic inside and line a roasting tin large enough to fit the aubergine in a single layer with baking parchment. Toss the aubergine cubes in a the tin with a small amount of oil (vegetable is fine) and roast for 30 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelised.
3. Remove the garlic and aubergines from the oven, unwrap the garlic to let it cool and transfer the aubergine to the serving dish.
4. If using pine nuts, toast them in a dry pan over a low-medium heat until just starting to colour. In a mini food processor, blitz the pine nuts and roasted garlic (squeeze the soft garlic out of the skins – the skins can be used in stock or just discarded) with a pinch of flaky sea salt into a paste, then add the basil (in batches if necessary) and pulse until you have a vivid green sludge. It should smell amazing.
5. Stir half of the pesto into the aubergines and drizzle the rest thickly on top.