A twist on the classic bread topped with tomatoes, pair a crusty loaf with this savoury aubergine mash instead. The subtle cucumber flavour of lovage works well with the aubergine, but use whatever tender green herbs you can buy readily.
For the aubergine and herbs:
- 2 large aubergine, about 1.5 kg
- ½ tsp of fine sea salt, plus extra to taste
- 300ml of extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- 20 fresh coriander sprigs
- 20 fresh dill sprigs
- 20 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 20 large fresh lovage leaves (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the turmeric-fried bread:
- 6 slices of crusty bread, such as ciabatta, each ½-inch thick
- 60g of salted butter
- ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
1. Cut the aubergines into 2cm cubes. Put in a colander and toss with about with the salt and leave to drain for 30 minutes. Rinse well, drain briefly, and spread onto tea towels to pat dry.
2. Heat 120ml of the oil in a deep pan over moderately high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. Add a quarter of the aubergine to the pan and cook until golden brown on the bottom, which should take about two minutes. Push the browned aubergine to one side of the pan and another tablespoon of oil, and when it’s hot, add another quarter of the cubed aubergine. Continue cutting and cooking the aubergine, letting each batch brown for two minutes and adding more oil as needed.
3. Cover the pan with the lid askew. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the aubergine is a tender, chunky mash, which should take about 15 minutes.
4. Coarsely chop the coriander, dill, parsley and lovage leaves, if using. Reserve two tablespoons of the chopped herbs for garnish and stir the remaining herbs into the aubergine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
5. To make the fried bread, start by cutting the biggest bread slices into two or three pieces. Then line up a double thickness of kitchen towels on the work surface near the hob. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat and when the butter starts bubbling, stir in the turmeric. Add the bread and fry until the underside is golden brown, which should only take a minute. Turn the bread and brown on the second side for another minute. Once cooked, place the slices on the kitchen towels in a single layer; don’t stack them or they will lose their crispness. And don’t be misled by the turmeric, which will turn the bread slices golden yellow; keep cooking until they are a nicely toasted brown.
6. Pile the bread slices on a plate. Mound the aubergine in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the reserved herbs.
Recipe from Cook Yourself Happy by Caroline Fleming (Jacqui Small, £25)