Recently I watched Gabrielle Hamilton make a particularly delicious-looking dish on ‘The Mind of a Chef’. She chargrilled aubergines over the open flame of a gas burner, then turned them into a simple but sumptuous spread with lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and freshly-baked flatbread. Around the same time a friend told me about an Ottolenghi/ Tamimi recipe for burnt aubergine soup. I decided to give those aubergines a try and ended up with this pumpkin-sweet potato-aubergine mix. It’s a warming, spicy and smooth soup, perfect for chilly autumn days. I didn’t dare roasting aubergines over the open flame in my kitchen but instead chose to grill them in the oven, which achieves – I find – the same result: the burnt aubergine has a light smokey flavor, which is a perfect complement to the sweetness of the pumpkin and the deep aroma of the za’atar. Try it, I’m sure you will love it!
Creamy pumpkin and burnt aubergine soup with za'atar
- One medium- sized aubergine
- One small pumpkin or medium-sized squash
- One medium-sized sweet potato
- 3-4 teaspoons of olive oil
- Half a teaspoon of coriander seeds
- Half a teaspoon of cumin seeds
- A pinch of cinnamon
- One teaspoon of za'atar
- 1 cup / 250 ml of almond milk, maybe more to taste
- Juice of one or two lemons
- A pinch of urfa chili or other chili flakes
- A few parsley leaves for garnish
- Turn up the grill of your oven to F 450 (250 degrees C). Cut the aubergine in half and place it face down on a tinfoil-lined baking tray, which has been greased with a little olive oil. Place the tray directly under the grill (note that for this recipe you only need one aubergine, but of course it would make sense to roast two or three at the same time). Roast the aubergine for about twenty minutes. Its skin should get blackened and crackly, the inside will be meltingly soft.
- Meanwhile, cut the pumpkin and the sweet potato in half. Lay out the pieces on another baking tray and put it in the lower part of the oven. Bake the pumpkin and the sweet potato along with the aubergines for about fifteen minutes or until softened. Then set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, de-seed the pumpkin and cut it into smaller cubes or chunks, and peel the sweet potato.
- When they are almost melted, take the aubergine halves out of the oven and place them in a bowl to cool, make sure to catch all the juices. Cut off an inch or so of the aubergine and set aside. Carefully scoop out the flesh from the rest and discard the charred skin.
- Heat two teaspoons of olive oil in a large pot. Using a mortar and pestle (or a wooden spoon and a bowl, if you don't have one), smash the coriander and cumin seeds and add them to the oil, along with the cinnamon and half a teaspoon of za'atar. Let the spices brown a little so they release their flavor.
- Then add the aubergine, sweet potato and pumpkin pieces, stirring well.
- Take the soup off the stove and puree it well with a mixer or in a food processor. Add water if it's too thick, or more almond milk if you'd like a more creamy consistency. Season with salt and more lemon juice to taste.
- Add the almond milk, a generous pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Cook for a few minutes so the flavors can blend together.
- Before serving, heat up the soup. Cut the remaining piece of aubergine with the skin into small cubes and place them in the center of the soup. Sprinkle the rest of the za'atar over the soup as well as some chili flakes. Garnish with the parsley leaves and add maybe a few drops of olive oil, or a little more almond milk. Enjoy!