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Smoky aubergine, tomato and olive rice.

Updated: May 18, 2021

This dish is halfway between a risotto and paella and uses smoky chargrilled aubergines for a silky, moreish texture and flavour. The recipe is quite in depth but is actually fairly simple once the aubergine is charred. A few simple ingredients here make for rich, comforting dinner.

SERVES 2-3. Vegan.

For the rice:

· 1 large aubergine

· 3-4 carrots (about 120g)

· 2 sticks of celery (about 100g)

· 1 large onion (about 150g)

· 3-4 garlic cloves

· 100g of risotto or paella rice

· Tomato puree

· Olive oil

· A hard fat, e.g. margarine, vegan butter or butter

· A handful of green olives, sliced.

· Salt

For the stock:

· 1 tin of plum tomatoes

· 500ml of water

· 3 tsp Paprika

· 1tsp chilli flakes

· 1 tbsp of stock powder or 2 cubes

· 3 tbsp of olive brine (or more if you like)

· 2 tsp of dried herbs (oregano, rosemary)

1. Combine all the stock ingredients in a jug or bowl and leave to sit.

2. Wash the aubergine and make small incisions using the tip of a knife. Also cut back the green top so that it doesn’t burn.

3. Turn a gas hob to full heat and place the aubergine directly onto it. You may want to put some tinfoil underneath the ring as it might get messy! Char the aubergine with the flame for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally. Cook until the black skin has burnt and become ashen and the skin is dry. The inside of the flesh should feel very soft. The larger end of the aubergine is the hardest to cook all the way through- stand it upright on the flame (using tongues if necessary) to cook it all the way through. If you don’t have a gas hob, the aubergine can be roasted in a very hot oven for the same amount of time. Or under a hot grill, turning occasionally. Smoked paprika can be added to your stock for extra smoky flavour.

4. Once the aubergine is charred, place in a pan with a lid on a leave it cool for 15-20minutes while you make the rice.

5. For the rice, finely dice the carrots, onions and celery. Very thinly slice the garlic (or it can be minced or grated if you prefer).

6. To a large saucepan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of margarine or other fat. Add the garlic. Heat up the fat slowly so the garlic can cook without burning. This will take about 5-8 minutes. The garlic will start to become brown and a bit sticky, at this stage add the carrots, onions and celery along with a pinch of salt.

Just onions would work for this stage, but the carrots and celery do add a bit of texture. If you want a slightly simpler method- the carrots, onions, celery and garlic can be minced in a food processer (try not to make a puree, but rather a chunky dry paste).

7. Cook the carrots etc. for 10-15minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft, and the vegetables have just started to brown. The carrots and celery don’t need to be fully soft at this stage.

8. While the vegetables are cooking, puree the stock mixture with a stick blender or other blender.

9. Add 2 tbsp of tomato puree to the vegetables and cook out for 3-5 minutes.

10. Transfer everything to a large frying pan. The vegetables can be cooked in the frying pan but cooking in the saucepan will be easier when stirring the vegetables.

11. Add the rice to the pan and spread the vegetable and rice mixture evenly over the pan.

12. Strain the stock mixture through a sieve into the pan and heat on medium high heat. Cook the rice mixture- it will take 20-25 minutes (try not to stir).

13. While the rice is cooking, prepare the aubergine. It should be cool enough to handle. Peel the charred skin off (it’s okay if a few flecks are left on). Roughly chop the aubergine flesh.

14. Halfway through cooking the rice (about 15 minutes in), stir through the aubergine.

15. Continue cooking the rice. The rice will absorb all the liquid and cook through (use a teaspoon to check the rice grains, they should be soft and not chalky). Cook the rice for long enough that it becomes soft but not completely dry. You want the rice and sauce to stick a little to the pan. This creates a sticky, dark layer that is full of flavour. The smell from the aubergine will be smoky/burnt which is confusing, so regularly test a little bit of rice at the bottom of pan near the end of the 20 minutes!

16. Finish with sliced olives. If the rice is cooked but there still seems to be a lot of liquid, cover with a lid or tinfoil and leave to steam for 5 minutes (with the heat off).

17. Serve warm with a side salad and a squeeze of lemon (optional of course).

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