I believe in having colourful foods on the plate and I love the beautiful dark gloss of an aubergine, which looks like it has been coloured dark by the hot rays of the sun. Unfortunately, although aubergines are good for you, they do need help in terms of taste. Spices really help to introduce flavour to the soft flesh. To give this dish a Mediterranean flavour, just mix in your Mediterranean Spice Rub (oregano, thyme combined with chilli flakes, red paprika and dried garlic). I have also added rich aromatic cumin and fresh garlic. These will aid digestion and the garlic is full of vitamin C, manganese and vitamin B6 and this combination works hard to keep illnesses at bay as it can strengthen the immune system.
- 2 large aubergines
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ small red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 tbsp Mediterranean Spice Rub (see below)
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8–10 sunkissed tomatoes, roughly chopped
- a large handful of fresh basil leaves
- 70g/2½oz/scant ½ cup black pitted Kalamata olives
- 120g/4½oz Greek feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
2 Cut each aubergine in half lengthways. Score the aubergine flesh with some deep cuts a few times but don’t cut all the way through the aubergines.
3 Place the aubergines on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the hot oven for 12–15 minutes until almost soft. Leave the oven on. Allow the aubergines to cool then scoop out the flesh.
4 Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and, as soon as they start to sizzle, add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Sprinkle in the Mediterranean Spice Rub and mix in the aubergine flesh. Season with salt and pepper and sauté over a high heat for 3–4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and basil leaves, mix, then take the pan off the heat and fold in the olives and feta.
5 Divide the mixture between the aubergine skins and return to the oven for 10–15 minutes until the stuffing and the skins are cooked.
Add cubed courgettes or red peppers if you would like to vary the taste.
If you can’t find sunkissed tomatoes, then use sun-dried ones and if they are in oil, drain the oil off before adding to the dish.
Mediterranean Spice Rub
This spice rub includes herbs that instantly evoke memories of the Mediterranean region. I went through a fanatical ‘Italy’ period – not wanting to travel anywhere else in the world – obsessed by its food and culture. This rub is inspired by my lazy, sunny, food-fuelled days in different parts of Italy. It is more of an aromatic spice rub with a nod to a slight chilli warmth. Based on the healthy diet of the Mediterranean – good and light – this is a mixture of herbs that are native to that region, and the spices that have become synonymous with the Mediterranean.
To make 25g/1oz/4 tbsp:
- 4 tbsp dried oregano
- 4 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp red mild chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried garlic powder
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
Put all ingredients in a jar, seal with a lid and shake well. Store in an airtight jar away from sunlight.