This is a recipe for the days when you light your BBQ. No joke. The deal is this: after finishing your cooking on the BBQ, turn up the heat and cook as many eggplants as you can muster, until they are blackened. Allow to cool, and remove the skin. The flesh will keep well in the refrigerator for several days. During that time make any of the dozens of eggplant dips, spreads, purees, and salads – they are all delicious.
This particular recipe roasts eggplants and pairs their beautiful flesh with steamed or grilled asparagus, and dresses them with a Chinese 5-Spice Powder dressing. It is glorious for Summer weather and warmer Autumn days. Japanese eggplants are preferred, but if you do not have those, never fear – the more common globe eggplant will work just as well.
Similar recipes include Roasted Eggplant with Chickpeas and Herb Yoghurt, Roasted Eggplant with Black Garlic-Yoghurt Sauce, Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgar and Yoghurt, Steamed Thai Eggplants, Spring Salad, Grilled Eggplant Salad, and Marinated Eggplants for the BBQ.
Smoky Aubergine and Asparagus
8 asparagus spears
5 Japanese eggplants
0.25 red onion, sliced into rings
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 Tblspn parsley, chopped
handful baby spinach leaves
1 cm piece ginger root, grated
1 Tblspn sherry vinegar
3 Tblspn extra virgin olive oil
1 tspn green pepper corns
pinch Chinese Five Spice Powder
Char grill or BBQ the eggplants until blackened and blistered all over. Peel and cut the flesh into long strips. Set aside.
Blanch trimmed asparagus in boiling water until tender but still crisp and then chop into 2 cm lengths on the diagonal. (Alternatively, grill them on the BBQ until tender.)
Mix the sherry vinegar, olive oil, green pepper corns, ginger and five spice powder to form a dressing. Arrange the eggplant strips, spring onions, red onion, parsley, spinach and asparagus pieces, on a platter and drizzle with the dressing. (Any left over dressing will keep stored in a jar in the fridge.)
Serve and enjoy.
recipe notes and alternatives
I often smoke the aubergines – even the asparagus can be cooked with a little smoke. These are the instructions I shared in Smoky Eggplants and Tomatoes.
For the charring or simple grilling of vegetables I use a covered BBQ which is the best method that I know. You can also use the oven, grill or stove top flame. If using a covered BBQ, increase the smoky flavours by smoking the vegetables while cooking. Take a disposable foil pan and cover the bottom with about 0.5 cm of rice. Add some lemon or lime peel to the top and some thyme, bay leaves or other hard herb. Mix with a Tblspn of water. Place in the BBQ when hot, and leave until it begins smoking. This may take some time. At this smoking stage, add the vegetables to the BBQ quickly, and close the cover again. Leave the smoker in for about 10 minutes if it is smoking strongly, or longer if just smoking a little, then remove and continue cooking the vegetables. I kept it in the BBQ for the whole time for smoking the eggplant and tomatoes.
You can also use a tea-smoking mixture with equal parts tea-leaves and uncooked rice, and a drizzle of water to lessen the amount of smoke. Experiment with different tea flavours – try black, green, jasmine, Earl Grey or lapsang souchong. Add spices, too, such as star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and citrus rind. Some cooks also add brown sugar to their tea-smoking mixture. It’s not added for sweetness – it’s used to speed up the smoking process.
Another option is to use a wood fire, and place the vegetables directly onto the coals. Small Hibachi BBQs are good for this, as are the Asian and Middle Eastern small terracotta containers used to create wood fires for cooking in the open. Always be careful with open flames outdoors and check local restrictions.