Ultra Smoky Zaalouk
Moroccan salads mark the start of any celebratory meal in a medley of colourful, sweet and savoury, intensely delicious appetisers. It is said, the more of them there are – and there can sometimes be as many as 12 or 15 – the more distinguished the guest. Most are cooked salads, as opposed to raw, but all showcase the country’s bounty of fresh, deeply flavoured produce. Arguably the most beloved of these combines smoky, chargrilled aubergine and mashed tomatoes infused with cumin, paprika and fresh coriander, which is then cooked down to a richly, silky texture. Serve it alone with flatbreads, as a side dish to rosy pink, grilled lamb chops, or tossed through pasta and sprinkled with feta cheese and parsley as a hearty, vegetarian main.
Serves 4-6 as a starter
3 medium sized aubergines
2 large, ripe tomatoes
1 plump, fresh chilli (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
Small bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
- Place the vegetables – aubergines and tomatoes – directly onto a gas flame (note: you could also do this on a barbecue to get a really smoky result).
- Cook until extremely well charred and tender, then place in a plastic or paper bag and seal (not tightly). This allows the vegetables to keep on cooking.
- When cool enough to handle, peel the vegetables.
- Hold the aubergines by the stalk and shred with a knife, so that you get long strips of flesh, rather than chunks.
- Chop the tomatoes into small dice.
- Add the vegetables to a saucepan, along with the garlic, spices and coriander, and add a quarter cup of olive oil.
- Cook over a medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes until all the flavours have come together, but the vegetables still have texture (we are not going for mushy here).
- Take off the heat and set aside to cool. Serve at room temperature. The zaalouk will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.