I hit the kitchen properly last night for the frst time in about ten days and banged pans about with wild abandon for a couple of hours. After all of which I ended up with an almost radioactively bright moong dhal and a gentle, ok – bland, leek and potato soup. Disaster.
As a result I felt a certain degree of performance anxiety tonight. The fridge contained just three long slender aubergines and a scraping of miso. Add that to some staples (onion, chilli, garlic) and my stock of sauces and an idea germinated. A sweet spicy aubergine hotpot/stirfry/curry type thing.
I know I’ve talked about how much I love, really really love, aubergines. They are the King and Queen of vegetables. Smooth and decadent, they go perfectly with anything that needs to be a bit sloppy, a bit smooth, a bit sexy.
I’ve used them for antipasti, dips, curries, purees, moussaka, casseroles, stir fries, stews. I’ve had them with pork, lamb, beef, fish, game, beans, peas and lentils. But I’ve yet to use them with Japanese flavours. And I have no idea why because they’re so well matched.
The marriage of umami rich miso along and brewed soy sauce with silky empurpled aubergine is a well nigh perfect one. It’s very rich, with a deep dark sweetness. There’s a tart edge provided by the vinegar and an underlying, but not overwhelming chilli heat. You could probably add some minced pork or tofu as well.
This is ideal served on a lightly steaming pile of rice: sticky, jasmine or basmati. And it would benefit from a side of fresh steamed vegetables.
Feeds four with rice
I got the sauce mix idea from Everyday Harumi, added some miso because I really wanted that deep umami flavour, and did the rest off the cuff.
Preparing the aubergines this way leaves them so silky smooth and tender you could drink them through a straw. The contrast with the deeply sweet-savoury sauce is delectable with the chilli heat providing a balance to the decadent textures and flavours.
2 medium or 3 long thin aubergines
Oil for shallow frying – about 200-300ml
1 clove garlic
1 thumb joint size lump of ginger
1 birds eye chilli
1 small onion
80ml Japanese soy sauce
60ml rice vinegar
2.5 tblsp caster sugar
1-2 tblsp miso
Slice the aubergines into bite sized chunks. Heat the oil until it is very hot. Shallow fry the aubergines in batches until they go soft and brown. This will take a couple of minutes per side. Drain the batches of aubergine on kitchen towel as you finish cooking them.
Combine the soy, mirin, vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Finely slice the onion and ginger. De-seed and chop the chilli, crush the clove of garlic. Stir fry the onion until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and stir for another minute.
Pour in the soy mix and bring to a simmer. Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Add the aubergines and stir until they are well coated.
Keep the heat low and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes. Serve in smallish amounts over rice.