Raymond Blanc’s Salade D’aubergine

Salade d’aubergine

Raymond Blanc shares the secrets to his salade d’aubergine…

“Surprisingly, perhaps, given their tropical origin, aubergines grow well in Britain. At Le Manoir we always trial at least ten varieties before we choose one, maybe two. This allows us to find the early and late varieties, and, most importantly, those with the best taste and texture. A ripe aubergine should be deep purple to black, heavy and firm. If it is over-ripe, the colour will be jet black and it will sound hollow when you tap it. This means there is air between the clusters of seeds, and the flesh will oxidise and discolour easily during cooking.

This is a delightful combination of smoky aubergine, chickpeas and dates, with a touch of chilli. It is essential that the griddle is searingly hot, in order to char the aubergine and lend the desired smoky flavour.”

Serves 4

• 80g dried chickpeas, soaked in plenty of cold water for 12 hours
• 4 ripe aubergines
• 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and finely ground
• 10g mint leaves, sliced into fine julienne
• 2 pinches of rock salt
• A pinch of caster sugar
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 70ml extra virgin olive oil
• 80g Medjool dates, stoned and quartered
• ½ red chilli, finely chopped
• 10g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
• 2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar (at least 8 years old)

To serve;
• 4 thin slices of rye bread, toasted
• 80g ricotta cheese, patted dry and crumbled
• 10g flaked almonds, toasted
• 8 mint tip sprigs

1 Drain the chickpeas. Tip them into a saucepan, add fresh cold water to cover generously and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until tender. Drain thoroughly.
2 Using the tip of a sharp knife, score each aubergine once on each side, to about a 3cm depth. (This will help the excess steam to escape.)
3 Heat a large griddle pan over a high heat. When hot, griddle the aubergines for 15 minutes, turning them every 4 minutes until the skins blister and char.
4 The grilling lends a wonderful smoky flavour to the flesh. Transfer
the aubergines to a tray and leave for 10 minutes; they will continue to cook as they cool.
5 Slide the aubergines onto a board. Using a sharp knife, cut off the stalks, then slice through each aubergine from top to bottom and open them up.
6 Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh in long ribbons from top to bottom. Remove and discard the clusters of seeds and discard the charred skin.
7 Spread out the aubergine flesh on a large tray. Season with the cumin, mint julienne, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle over 40ml of your best extra virgin olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning.
8 In a small bowl, toss together the chickpeas, dates, red chilli, coriander, the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.
9 Arrange the seasoned aubergines on a platter and spoon the chickpeas and dates in their dressing over and around them. Break up the rye toast and scatter the pieces over the aubergines. Scatter the crumbled ricotta and flaked almonds over the salad and top with the mint tips.

Recipe courtesy of Raymond Blanc, extracted from Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

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