A while back there was a TV programme on the BBC about the various fruits and vegetables grow in the UK but underutilised by suppliers and consumers. Either the food item itself wasn’t very popular, or it was just a lot cheaper to grow them overseas. For each episode a famous chef would investigate a particular item, talk to growers and then share some recipes. It was disappointingly dull. One good thing to come out of it though, was this incredible recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi on an episode focused on walnuts. Who would have thought that a half hour television programme about the British walnut growing industry could be boring? I was shocked.
I had never eaten or even seen a pickled walnut before I made this recipe, but I like walnuts, and vinegar, so thought they couldn’t be that scary. Boy was I mistaken. They are icky like how vacuum-packed cooked beetroot is icky – with added layers of ick due to the fact that they look nothing at all like a walnut, but a brown squishy blob thing. But my inner feminist domestic goddess would never be beaten by something as trivial as a pickled walnut, so I ‘ovaried up’ and carried on with the recipe. And it was definitely worth it.
4 medium aubergines
4 tbsp olive oil
Coarse salt (sea salt or I use pink Himalayan rock salt) and freshly ground black pepper
For the salsa:
125g walnuts, chopped
80g or 2 whole pickled walnuts, chopped
2 tsp liquid from the pickled walnuts jar
1 and a half tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley
The seeds from ½ pomegranate. My insights into de-seeding pomegranates can be seen here.
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Cut both the aubergines in half lengthways through the stalk (its prettier that way). Score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern, being careful not to go through the skin and stab yourself in the hand with a knife.
Oil the cut side of the aubergines. Aubergines can absorb an awful lot of oil. I reckon that the best way to make sure they are coated but don’t absorb too much oil is to pour a little on the baking tray and press the cut side of the aubergine into it for a second or two.
Sprinkle the aubergines with a generous pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Place on a baking tray, flesh-side up, and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is cooked through and turns a dark golden-brown. Leave them in the oven with the oven off and the door closed for at least another 10 minutes.
Make the salsa by mixing all the ingredients together just after you put the aubergines in the oven. I reduced the levels of vinegar from the original recipe, as I wanted it to be a little lighter. Just before you are ready to serve it, taste it and judge if you feel it needs more vinegar.
Serve the aubergines on a big platter slightly warm or at room temperature, with the salsa spooned over the top. If you have any extra parsley and pomegranate seeds you may want to scatter some over the top of the finished dish too.