Well no, not actual aubergine marmite (though…hmm….) but aubergine really is the marmite of the food world.
The amount of people that loathe it, and the amount that adore it, seems to be about equal amongst my friends and, to be honest, given how I have had it cooked in this country, I can see exactly why people hate it. If I didn’t know just how lovely it can be, and had only had past restaurant versions of it, I’d steer well clear too.
I’m very lucky. I was brought up eating the well cooked, silky version. The kind where the flesh of the vegetable almost disappears into the dish it’s in, or else is the smokey, garlicky staple into which you repeatedly dip your bread because you can’t get enough.
I will readily admit that there are problems with aubergines.
Sponges, soaking up oil like there’s no tomorrow, worse even than mushrooms and thrice as rubbery.
The whole point is that they cook down, and that you must cook them for twice as long as you think you should. Also, that oil? Make sure that it is a good, well flavoured one, because it becomes a part of the taste of the dish, not just an unguent.
Salt is important. These days not so much to draw the bitterness out, as that seems to have been bred out over the years (except from the tiny pea sized Thai ones), but to draw the moisture out. If you want to grill them till they are crisp, salt them first, then wipe the salt off, and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Don’t add any more salt, obviously, as they probably won’t need it, but you can salt afterwards if you like. You can add, but you cannot take away, when it comes to salt.
I will eat them any way I can get them, but one of my favourite ways, and one of the most simple, is just to roast them with olive oil and salt. That’s it. I also add honey sometimes, and cinnamon, but they are good just on their own.
Take one large purple aubergine. Or cosh, as my husband calls them.
Cut it in half lengthways, then make scores into the flesh with a sharp knife – but do not pierce down through the dark skin.
Liberally douse the cut side with decent olive oil. Remember, the oil is a part of the dish.
Sprinkle with salt, place on a baking tray with sides, and set to roast in a 170C fan oven.
After 15 minutes, give them a check. They should have started to brown a little.
Pop them back in for another 15 minutes.
After this set of 15 minutes is where I would add honey, sea salt and cinnamon. You do not have to do this. You can just roast them as they are, and then eat with a smattering of sea salt.
If you choose the No Honey way, then roast them until they are a deep, golden brown, and the slits have opened up. This may take longer than you think. It does depend on the aubergine.
If you do add honey, roast them until the honey has caramelised, and the slits have opened up.
My aubergines today were quite large, and also quite watery, so I had to turn the grill on for 5 minutes to finish off the browning process, but usually I do not have to do that. I think, all in all, it took 45 minutes including faff time.
These are good hot or cold, but I like them at room temperature, eaten as a side with meat, or just on their own with some good bread and feta cheese.
You can wait until they are cooled, chop them up and add to couscous or rice if you like.