Following the excesses of our delicious Empire Roast Lamb (the leftovers of which were devoured Nigella style by the light of the fridge), we felt it prudent to move back to safer, healthier, vegetarian dishes for a little while.
This is CB’s speciality dish – one she started making months ago when I was far more reluctant about forgoing the siren call of meat in every meal. The truth is that the aubergines and chickpeas are chunky and meaty enough that you don’t miss it, and the tabbouleh gives it a zestiness that will keep you coming back for mouthful after mouthful. I am therefore able to guarantee that this is a dish for absolutely everybody – vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.
This dish is so versatile. It does make a fantastic weeknight dinner but if you are keen on Middle Eastern style feasting, serve the stew and tabbouleh with some crumbled feta, some grilled chicken (using your favourite seasoning), add a plate of heated pittas or flatbreads to the side and serve the hummus in a big bowl for everybody to share, family style.
A couple of things to note:
- You might balk at the idea of 3 tbsp of oil to fry the aubergines but remember they are porous little buggers and drink it up very quickly.
- Don’t be tempted to use anything stronger than a medium chilli for this dish – for once, it’s not all about the heat.
Serves 2 (or 3 if your aubergine is on the larger side)
255 calories per portion for the tabbouleh, 365 calories per portion for the chickpea and aubergine stew. Chickpeas inspired by Blanche Vaughan’s In One Pot.
Middle Eastern Chickpeas
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium aubergine/eggplant, cut into fairly large cubes
1 medium red onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, very finely diced or minced
1 medium red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 salad tomatoes, diced OR 1 can of chopped tomatoes (though you’ll still need fresh for the tabbouleh)
1 can of chickpeas (we recommend East End variety as some supermarket kinds have too much bite)
10g parsley, chopped
10g coriander, chopped
salt and pepper, to season.
These ingredients can be prepared as you’re cooking the chickpeas to save time
25g bulgar wheat
2 tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 red onion finely diced
1/2 bunch of mint, leaves only, chopped
1 bunch of parsley, leaves only, chopped
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
2 tbsp your nicest olive oil plus more to taste
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan that has a lid until oil is shimmery but not quite smoking and fry the cubed aubergine in there for a few minutes until browned all over.
- Add the onion with a seasoning of salt. Reduce the heat and let it cook gently until the onion softens – about 10 minutes. Add the chilli and the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in all the spices.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and cover – leave for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting for the tomatoes to break down, measure out your bulgur wheat, put the kettle and once boiled just cover the bulgur and simmer for 12 minutes – top up with a little water if it starts to dry out.
- Once your tomatoes have finished cooking for 10 minutes, add the chickpeas and cover again for 15 minutes.
- Use these 15 minutes to prepare the rest of your tabbouleh ingredients, adding/mixing everything in a bowl (including the cooked bulgur) and finally adjusting the olive oil, salt and lemon juice to taste.
- When the 15 minutes for the chickpeas are done, adjust the seasoning, stir in the herbs, and take off the heat. Let the pot sit with the lid on for a few minutes while you fuss about with your plates to serve.
- Spoon lovingly into your favourite bowls with the tabbouleh below and your favourite hummus. Toast a pitta bread if you fancy it.