Smoky stuffed aubergine

I invented this in Spain where, you  will remember, we had one working gas ring and a woodburning oven.

First, slice your aubergine/s in half lengthways.  First brush with olive oil.  Then season well with salt and pepper.  Insert slices of raw garlic into the flat side.  Put your griddle pan on the heat until it is very hot.  Then put the aubergines flat side down on the griddle. Note that I oiled the aubergine and not the pan.  That way, you reduce the amount of black smoke in your kitchen!  The idea is that you char the aubergine on both sides.  Don’t be tempted to turn it over too quickly or you will leave the contents of the aubergine on the griddle.  Leave it until it is brown and crispy. There is method in the madness here because this is what gives the aubergine its wonderful smoky flavour.  When brown and crispy on the flat side, turn it over.  Depending on the fierceness of the heat it can take between 20 and 30 minutes to cook the aubergine so that the flesh is soft and cooked inside.  If you don’t have a griddle pan use your woodburning oven (that was a joke!) or put them under the grill.

Meanwhile put about a cup full of couscous into a shallow dish (one cup full for two aubergine, so double up for more).  Pour boiling water over the couscous until it is just covered. Then put a tea towel over the dish and it will steam away gently all by itself.  Whilst it is cooking itself under the tea towel, gently soften some onion in plenty of butter and olive oil and add a big chopped garlic clove and a measure of sunflower seeds near the end of the cooking time.  Then add, to your taste, chopped green or black olives, chopped ripe tomato (minus the seeds and juicy bits).  Putting the tomato in last is deliberate.  I’m not aiming for a thick tomatoey sauce here – more a cous cous content with texture and tomato evident as tomato instead of juice.

Having removed the aubergine from the pan when it is cooked, it is probably cool enough to handle now.  Put a double layer of kitchen towel on one hand and scoop out most of the aubergine flesh with a dessert spoon and mix into the cous cous mixture.  Try to keep the skin intact. Now you have a wonderful smoky filling, moist with tomato and garlicky onion, spiked with salty olives. The only thing left to do is to add loads of chopped mint, season with salt and black pepper, then pile back into the aubergine skins.

Put in the oven (woodburning or otherwise) at 160C for about 25 minutes till hot and the skins practically bursting.  If you wanted you could add a  little feta on the top before serving and a fresh sprinkling of mint.  We served this with a salad of green beans dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh oregano.

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