Za’atar Roast Aubergine with Cumin Rice
This Middle Eastern-inspired veggie recipe looks epic served on a platter in the middle of the table. Za’atar is a blend of herbs and spices with a nice zing to it
If you want a touch of indulgence, add some butter to the rice when it’s cooked to take it up a notch and give it a rich, luxurious flavour.
- 3 aubergines, cut in half lengthways
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 6 tbsp za’atar, plus 2 tsp to serve
- 6 tbsp plain yoghurt
- 1 small bunch of mint, leaves chopped
- 200g pomegranate seeds
- Salt and pepper
- For the rice
- 600g basmati rice
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced Butter (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.
- Use a sharp knife to make a criss-cross pattern on the inside of each aubergine half, about 1cm deep.
- Lay the aubergines on a baking tray. Pour half the lemon juice over the cut side of the aubergines. Drizzle all over with six tablespoons oil, season with salt and pepper and scatter over is tablespoons za’atar. Use your hands to rub the oil and za’atar all over the aubergines, getting it into the grooves.
- Give the aubergines a final drizzle of oil and roast for about 45 minutes until soft and slightly charred on top.
- To make the rice, weigh the rice in a measuring jug or mug. (You will need two times the volume of boiling water to rice for cooking later, so one mug of rice = two mugs of water.)
- Put the rice in to a sieve, rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, then set aside. Boil the kettle.
- Heat the remaining two tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over a medium–high heat and add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add the onions with a good pinch of salt and fry for five minutes until golden.
- Add the rice to the pan with double its volume of boiling water and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and cook for 10–12 minutes over a low heat until all of the water has been absorbed. When the rice is cooked, you can add a couple of knobs of butter for a richer flavour. Fluff up with a fork.
- Serve the roast aubergines on top of the rice. Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice. Drizzle with yoghurt and oil and scatter over the mint, pomegranate seeds and remaining za’atar.
Extracted from Easy by Chris Baber (Ebury, £16.99) Photography by Haraala Hamilton.