Peppery Aubergines

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India and the Far East consume the greatest quantities of aubergines. This is to be expected as, although this splendid vegetable is now cultivated in warm climates throughout the world, its homeland is India. It has been a traditional food in Eastern cookery for many centuries. This recipe was inspired by my good friend Hwang San in his delightful Hunan-style restaurant, Dong Ting, in Houston, Texas. He steams the aubergines, but I find roasting them just as easy with the same results. Aubergines have a very spongy texture and can absorb a great deal of oil when they are fried or even stir-fried.

This dish works well as a starter. The cooked aubergine is not too filling and the peppercorn sauce stimulates the palate. Because this dish may be made well ahead of time, it is quite practical for entertaining. It is an excellent picnic dish too.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) aubergines

Sauce

  • teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, roasted and ground
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion tops
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese white rice
  • vinegar or cider vinegar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. If you are using Chinese aubergines, roast in the oven for 20 minutes; if you are using the large aubergines, roast for about 30–40 minutes or until they are soft to the touch and cooked through. Allow the aubergines to cool, then peel them. Shred or cut the aubergine flesh into strips.

Arrange the aubergine on a platter. Combine the sauce ingredients, pour over the aubergine and serve at once.

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