BBQ Recipes you MUST Try this summer: Smoky aubergines, pickled cucumber & sesame salad w/ runny egg
When cooked over an open fire, aubergine has an amazing ability to transform into a smoky, soft bombshell of flavour. This salad, a perfect accompaniment to a barbecue and also delicious served with steamed jasmine rice as a main, uses a runny egg to contribute to the dressing. I’ve used Thai purple aubergines, which are thinner and easier to grill evenly in a short time. You can also use ordinary aubergines, but they may need a little longer on the fire. Serve drizzled in our burnt chilli dipping sauce to add an extra level of flavour.
4 Thai purple aubergines (these can be found in most Asian supermarket, however, the larger, more popular, aubergines can be used instead)
2 duck eggs
10g jasmine rice
10g mint, torn
10g Thai shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (banana shallots can be used)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
For the pickle
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
50ml distilled white vinegar
¼ cucumber, thinly sliced
For the dressing
juice of 3 limes
juice of 2 clementine
2 teaspoons fish sauce (seaweed sauce can be used as a vegetarian substitute)
½ teaspoon chilli powder (a little less if you don’t like things too spicy)
2 teaspoons caster sugar
3 teaspoons tamarind water
Light the barbecue and place the whole aubergines directly onto the hot coals, or near the hottest part of the grill if you’re using a gas barbecue. Keep a close eye on them and turn them over frequently, ensuring that the heat from the coals is distributed evenly. The aubergines are ready when they are soft to the touch, with charred and blistered skins. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. If you are not using a barbecue, crank the oven right up to full blast and bake the aubergines until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft – this will take 20–25 minutes.
Meanwhile, soft-boil then peel the duck eggs. An average-sized egg takes 6–7 minutes to cook on a rolling boil. I cook mine in salted water, then transfer them into ice-cold water with a splash of olive oil. If you peel the eggs in the water, the oil gets between the shell and the flesh, making them easier to peel. Once peeled, set aside at room temperature.
Put the rice in a dry frying pan and lightly toast on a medium heat, shaking the pan constantly until the grains have turned golden brown and release a lovely aroma. Pound the rice into a powder in a granite mortar and pestle, or use a spice grinder. Make sure to grind the rice to a powder as it will be used to add texture to the salad; it will be crunchy if the grains are too coarse.
Next, make the pickle. In a medium saucepan, gently heat the sugar, salt and vinegar together with 50ml cold water until the sugar has dissolved. Be sure to keep stirring so that the sugar dissolves without heating the water too much. Remove from the heat and add the cucumber, then refrigerate.
Make the dressing. In a bowl, mix the lime and clementine juices, the fish sauce, chilli powder, sugar and tamarind water. Taste and adjust the dressing to cater to your own taste buds: it should be sweet, salty, sour and hot, with an edge towards the salt and citrus. When you’re happy with the flavour, add the aubergines, mint, coriander, shallots and the pickled cucumber (straining any pickling juices before adding), then gently fold together, leaving the aubergines whole if you can be delicate enough.
Put the aubergines on a serving plate and place the duck eggs on top. Using the tip of a knife, pierce a hole in the eggs and break them open with your fingers, releasing the runny yolks so that they ooze into the salad. Sprinkle the salad with the rice and sesame seeds and add a tiny pinch of salt onto the runny egg yolks as a surprise burst of flavour. Serve with steamed jasmine rice for an extra fill.