Burnt Aubergine and Maftoul Soup
Dee – We were on safe ground with July 2015’s featured ingredient, Aubergine (Eggplant), as it features in several recipes in the book, and there is an entire chapter dedicated to it in Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’ book.
It’s one of the main ingredients in Sabih, a personal favourite, and it was tempting to use this recipe, but I have it earmarked for a future entry so decided to select one of the others instead.
After careful consideration, I chose the Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup on page 141. It’s been a while since I last made a soup, and this one features aubergines prepared in two different ways, making it very much the star of the dish so I felt it fitted the bill nicely.
The mention of ‘burnt’ in the title might cause some concern, but it refers to the burning of the outer skin, which is then peeled away and discarded, leaving the inside flesh cooked to a soft consistency with a smoky, creamy taste.
This recipe takes a while to complete, and has quite a long list of ingredients which are prepared at different stages before being combined near the end of cooking. The initial burning of the aubergine skins can take a while and does need some careful attention to make sure they don’t dry out. However, the time spent certainly pays off.
For this recipe I used three ‘standard’ sized aubergines as the small ones specified in the recipe weren’t available. Two and a half went through the initial burning stage while I chopped up the remaining half and pan fried it ready for the final garnish.
I wasn’t able to find any Mograbieh, but luckily I had some Maftoul which I used instead, hence the renamed recipe title. There isn’t a lot of difference between the two ingredients; both are variants of couscous, Maftoul is Palestinian and slightly smaller than Mograbieh which is Lebanese.
Almost as soon as I started making this soup I felt confident that it would turn out well. The first stage required onions to be softened and flavoured with cumin, followed by tomato puree, chopped tomato, garlic, sugar and seasonings. Once this had spent some time simmering, the scooped-out aubergine flesh was added and the whole lot blitzed to a fairly thick soup. Most of the maftoul and chopped up aubergine was then stirred in, with the remainder being sprinkled on top of the soup along with some shredded basil just before serving.
Both the taste and texture of the soup were fantastic. The principal flavours were the earthiness of the aubergine, tanginess of the tomato, and spiciness of the cumin, while the maftoul served to thicken it. It lost its characteristic nutty flavour but added a pleasingly chewy texture to the soup.
It was an ideal lunch and would certainly appeal to anyone who is a fan of thick soups that spoons can stand up in. The specified four portion serving was spot on, but I think next time I make it I will up-scale the quantities and freeze some. It’s that good.There will be another soup for the next Tasting Jerusalem entry, but it will be very different to this one.
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