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Nigel Slater’s recipes for aubergines with gochujang, and chocolate mint frozen yoghurt


The cry goes out to “stay home”, and I do. The odd bunch of herbs or green vegetables aside, dinner comes from the cupboard. There is not a packet or storage jar whose contents I haven’t looked at hoping for inspiration. I know every bean, lentil and grain of rice in the larder, and so I should. My favourite dinner this week was the one where I baked black-eyed beans – beautiful ivory pulses with a charcoal eye – with fat “banana” shallots, aubergines and tinned tomatoes, whose fiery seasoning of Korean chilli paste helped us feel better as we looked out on yet another wet, locked-in winter’s day.

That rust-red aubergine bake came under a crumble-crust of coarse sourdough crumbs freckled with thyme and citrus zest. Everyday – you might even say dull – larder ingredients were transformed into a supper that well and truly lifted our spirits. I griddled the aubergines first (a 10-minute job) to introduce a smoky note to the scarlet sauce, but I could have just as easily fried them in a pan – only long enough for them to soften before they met the rest of the dish. There is little I like more than the silky, oily flesh of an aubergine that has softened in a spice-laden sauce.

To cool our chilli-stung lips, I made a water-ice with mint leaves and yoghurt and trickled a spoon of melted dark chocolate over the pale green crystals. It froze like the wafer-thin chocolate that envelops an After Eight mint.

Baked aubergines with gochujang and beans

The amount of chilli paste you use is up to you – I suggest you taste as you go. I start with 1 level tbsp then increase it by just a little until the heat level seems right. Much will depend on your paste, but it is wise to assume that the darker red the paste, the hotter it will be. At least, that is my experience. The sugar I include is really just a pinch, but it seems to calm the more aggressive notes of the paste. Leave it out if you wish.
Serves 4-6

aubergines 450g
shallots (banana) 400g, large
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 4 cloves
gochujang 2 level tbsp
chopped tomatoes 2 x 400g cans
black-eyed or haricot beans 2 x 400g cans
thyme leaves 1 tbsp
sugar a pinch

For the crust:
white bread 100g
thyme leaves 2 tbsp
lime or lemon zest 1 tbsp (1- 2 limes), grated
olive oil 5 tbsp

Remove the stems from the aubergines. Slice each aubergine in half lengthways. If you are using large ones, then cut each one lengthways into 1cm thick slices. Heat a griddle pan, then cook the aubergines cut side down for 5 minutes over a moderate heat until they are showing good colour before turning them over. Cook the other side for a further 5 minutes, then remove to a bowl. Cover with a lid – the steam they produce will help them to soften them further.

Peel, halve and roughly chop the shallots. Warm the oil in a deep, heavy-based casserole, then let the shallots cook over a low to moderate heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and pale gold. Peel, thinly slice and stir in the garlic.

Stir in the gochujang, the tomatoes and their liquid and the black-eyed beans and their canning liquid. Stir in the thyme leaves, a little salt, the sugar and the aubergines. Simmer for 10 minutes, then transfer to a deep baking dish. I use one measuring 24cm x 16cm.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Process the bread to coarse crumbs, either in the food processor or by hand with a coarse-toothed grater. Mix them with the thyme leaves and the grated lime or lemon zest.

Pour over the olive oil and toss to coat. Scatter over the surface of the beans and tomatoes. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crumb crust is crisp and the filling is bubbling around the edges.

Chocolate mint frozen yoghurt

Chocolate mint frozen yoghurt
Refresh your palate: chocolate mint frozen yoghurt. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

You don’t need an ice-cream maker for this. Just a deep freeze and a freezer box. It helps the texture of the finished water-ice if you can remember to beat the mixture with a fork every hour or so as it freezes, but this is not essential. Once the chocolate had frozen in splinters over the green ice, it reminded me, in a good way, of the long-lost Mint Cracknel – a favourite chocolate bar from my childhood.
Serves 8

granulated white sugar 250g
mint sprigs 10g
mint leaves 10g
water 250ml
yoghurt 500ml
dark chocolate 100g

Put the sugar and half the mint sprigs, leaves and stalks, into a food processor. Pulse until you end up with moist, green sugar. Put the green sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as all the sugar has dissolved, remove it from the heat and quickly cool the mixture – either by putting the pan in a sink of cold water, or, as I do, by pouring the syrup into a bowl set in a larger one of ice cubes.

Blitz the remaining mint briefly with the yoghurt, then stir into the cooled syrup and mix gently. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a chilled plastic freezer box. Keep in the freezer for a couple of hours or until ice crystals start to form on the edges, then stir or whisk them into the liquid centre and return it to the freezer. Repeat once, an hour or so later, then leave until almost frozen.

When you are ready to serve the frozen yoghurt, chop the chocolate finely then melt it in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Serve the mint-ice in small bowls, the melted chocolate trickled over.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater





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