Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup

Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup

Mograbieh is a gorgeous large couscous, one of several varieties available around the Mediterranean and Middle East that includes maftoul, fregola, giant couscous, pearl couscous and Israeli couscous. They are generally widely available – some in supermarkets but the best in Middle Eastern groceries. Although there are differences, they can be interchanged in many recipes.

This recipe is a delightful and unusual soup – who has heard of eggplant soup before? Today we have one for you. It is Israeli in origin, and features in Tamimi and Ottolenghi’s book Jerusalem. The texture is from the mograbieh and fried eggplant, and the smooth soup base is char-roasted eggplant and tomatoes.

It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking mainly from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar recipes include Mograbieh and Artichoke Pilaf, Saffron Mograbieh Pilaf with Broad Beans, and Couscous Lunches.

Browse our Eggplant recipes. Mograbieh dishes, and our Soups. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.

Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup

Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup

5 small eggplants
sunflower oil for frying
1 onion, sliced
1 Tblspn cumin seeds
1 tspn tomato puree
2 large tomatoes, diced
350 ml vegetable stock or water
400 ml water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tspn sugar
2 Tblspn lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper
100g mograbieh, maftoul, fregola, Israel couscous or giant couscous
2 Tblspn basil, shredded, or 1 Tblspn chopped dill, optional

Start by burning three aubergines. If you have a gas hob, line the base with foil to protect it, keeping only the burners exposed. Place the aubergines directly on separate moderate flames and roast for 15-18 minutes, until the skin is burnt and flaky and the flesh is soft. Use metal tongs to turn them occasionally. Alternatively, score the aubergine with a knife in a few places, a couple of centimetres deep, and place on a baking sheet under a hot grill for about an hour. Turn them around every 20 minutes or so and continue to cook even if they burst and break. Or the best way to char them is in a covered BBQ, which takes 15-20 minutes -turn them periodically until all sides are charred and the flesh is soft.

Remove the aubergines from the heat and allow them to cool down slightly. Once cool enough to handle, cut an opening along each one and scoop out the flesh, dividing it with your hands into long thin strips. Discard the skin. Drain the flesh in a colander for an hour at least, preferably longer to get rid of as much water as possible.

Cut the remaining aubergines into 1.5cm dice. Heat about 150ml of oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and, when it is hot, add the aubergine dice. Fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until coloured all over; add a little more oil if needed so there is always some oil in the pan. Remove the aubergine, place in a colander to drain and sprinkle with salt.

Make sure you have about 1 Tblspn of oil left in the pan, then add the onion and cumin seeds and saute for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato puree and cook for another minute before adding the tomatoes, stock, water, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, 1.5 tspns of salt and some black pepper. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the mograbieh or alternative. Cook until al dente; this will vary but should take about 15-18 minutes (check the packet). Drain and refresh under cold water.

Transfer the burnt aubergine flesh and the soup to a blender and blitz to a smooth liquid. Return the soup to the pan. Add the mograbieh and fried aubergine, keeping some for a garnish, and simmer for another 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, with the reserved mograbieh and fried aubergine on top and garnished with basil or dill, if you like.

Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup

recipe notes and alternatives
A little harissa adds a wonderful spicy hit to the soup. Add instead of tomato puree.

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