Dinners, Vegetarian
Comments 2

Smoky Aubergine and Lentil Ragu

It’s absolutely pissing it down this morning, so I thought some comfort food might be appropriate. We appear to have just about reached “it’s gonna be rainy and repulsively windy day in, day out for months now and there’s nothing you can do about it” season in the South of England. This, I’m sure, is where we’ll stay for some time to come. While we’re here, we should probably eat some delicious hot food that doesn’t look particularly pretty but tastes like an actual cuddle.

First, credit where credit is due. The author of the original recipe is the gorgeous and ever so talented Rosie Birkett, and I first saw it in this months issue of BBC Good Food. I’ve since tweaked it to our preferences (Tom refuses to eat walnuts, I like to add more veg in where I can and heartbreakingly I no longer have access to a bay tree) and am dying to give it to you lot. It’s not a super simple, done in 20 minutes one, but it is absolutely doable on a weeknight if you enjoy cooking and it’s so worth the effort.

Aubergine and Lentil Ragu

This is a hearty vegetarian dinner that absolutely screams autumn. Beautiful smoky flavours come from the aubergine cooked directly over the flame and good, proper substance and heft is provided through the lentils. You should all know by now that it’s incredibly rare for me to cook the same thing so often, that’s how you know I’ve found a real gem. I’m just a little addicted to the process of cooking aubergines in this way and the unique smoky element they bring.

If you’ve never cooked aubergines over the flame, don’t be intimidated, it’s really easy. Rule number one is stand right by them, and keep them turning cause big supermarket aubergines are difficult to get an even burn on. It might feel wrong burning something essentially to a crisp, it goes against your instincts, but it’s the aim of the game. The skin blisters and blackens leaving a soft, smoky flesh within. Do them before you do anything else and set them aside to cool so that they’ll be easy to peel. Oh, and have someone on hand to wave a tea towel at the smoke alarm. They wanna be on the flame for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes depending on how big they are, and you want to keep them turning all the time.


Background wallpaper provided by the lovely Farrow & Ball, it’s Atacama 5804 and you can find it here..

Serves 3-4

2 aubergines
1 onion, diced finely
1 carrot, sliced finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tomatoes, chopped roughly
150g cooked brown, green or puy lentils
1 red chilli, sliced finely
splash of red wine vinegar
pinch of salt and sugar

  1. Cook the aubergines over a naked flame. See notes above if this makes no sense to you. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large pan, gently fry the onions and carrots with a little salt until caramelised. Around 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and red wine vinegar and cook until the tomatoes are smooshing into the pan. I also add a pinch of sugar at this point. If you don’t want to, it’s cool, it’s not essential, I just find that tiny teenie little bit of sweetness really balances everything out for me.
  4. Peel the aubergines and roughly chop the softened flesh.
  5. Add the aubergine, lentils and around 100ml of water. Cook until thickened, five minutes or so.
  6. Serve with buttery swede (boil swede until tender then blitz and swirl through some butter) as Rosie suggests, or I’ve served it with equally buttery polenta which is also divine.

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  1. Fabienne says

    Looks absolutely delicious! Only question is: What do I do if I don’t have a gas oven with a “naked flame”?? Would roasting it in the oven give me a similar taste/ effect?

    • Not really, no. I’ve been told that if you put them under the grill (even in an electric oven) you can get a similar effect – do let me know if you try it!

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