Turkish Inspired Aubergine Soup with Dry Toasted Almonds
It’s a sombre grey wet and grim looking day, secretly I’m very pleased that the rain has finally arrived. The forest is dry and my garden is suffering too.
My tomato harvest was pretty good and I managed to make several batches of tomato sauce for the larder and days like today. My aubergine plants have done ok and we harvested 9 decent size aubergines. It was the first year that I have attempted growing them and I’m pretty chuffed to have this lovely harvest. Aubergines are a funny vegetable and I think you either love or loathe them. I cannot stand having them undercooked as they make the roof of my mouth itch and burn and if the pan is not hot enough they soak up a lot of oil and leave an unpleasant amount of grease in your mouth…have I sold it to you yet?! Only joking, make sure your pan is really hot, cook the aubergines in batches and keep them moving to colour them evenly.
I got the inspiration for this lovely soup from a dish that we used to make in the restaurant called Imam Bayaldi, we served the rich and dark refined aubergine puree as a canape in pretty little silver pots with slices of wafer thin crispy ficelle. We used to cook the aubergines in the deep fat fryer until they where really dark just like the ones in this picture. I did not fancy deep fat frying them for the soup, as I like to think it’s a low fat but hearty dish and therefore I sauteed them in a large non-stick frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil until really dark. The colour is important as it gives the soup that golden deep colour and the depth of flavour, the way aubergines should taste.
I sweetened the soup with a teaspoon of honey and golden sultanas that were soaked in hot water to make them plump and fat. I also used two of my favourite spices, cumin and a lovely blend of ras-el-hanout. I really should be producing my own ras-el-ahnout as Janie kindly shared her recipe with me for making this in the thermomix. I still have three quarters of a jar left from the Arabica food and spice company that I purchased earlier this year and would feel bad if I threw it away. I made a promise that once my ras-el-hanout is finished I shall make Janie’s recipe which I will be happy to share with you!
To salt or not to salt?!? I suppose that’s the million dollar question. Well it works as follows, if you have young and very fresh aubergines like mine, harvested and cooked in the same day then there is no need to salt. If they are a bit old they might be bitter and will require salting. We salt aubergines to draw out the bitterness. With the new varieties on the market or if fresh, then it’s not really necessary but if you feel more at ease with doing it then I suggest there is no harm done at all. Cut the aubergines and toss them with a teaspoon of table salt, let them sit in a colander for 30 minutes to a hour and pat them dry with kitchen paper before cooking. Remember not to over season your soup if you have chosen to salt beforehand. I did not use salt for this recipe and required a generous amount of seasoning whilst sauteing them in preparation.
This recipe makes a generous amount of soup,and I like this soup thick, velvety and smooth. Even though I added no cream, the soup tastes velvety and rich, prefect for that cold rainy autumn evening. You can however let it down a bit more with extra vegetable stock if you like it a bit thinner. I garnished the soup with dry toasted almonds and a swirl of natural yoghurt.
- 2 large aubergines, cut into even 2cm dice
- 40g golden sultanas, soaked in hot water and one bay leaf
- 300ml tomato sauce or tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1tsp Ras-El-Hanout
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 50ml Olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- 750ml vegetable stock
- 1tsp honey
- 1tbs natural full fat yoghurt
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- 2tbs flaked almonds
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Soak the golden sultanas and bay leaf in hot water, set aside.
Prepare the vegetables, cut the aubergines into 2cm dice, crush the garlic and slice the red onion. If you choose to salt your aubergines then do so, leave them in a colander for 30 minutes to 1 hour and pat them dry before sauteing them.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan or wok with a bit of the oil and saute the aubergines with seasoning in batches until very very dark in colour, not burning but very well caramelised. Do this in batches as it will help you to get the required colour. Drain the aubergines in a colander.
In the same pan and with the remaining oil saute the onions, garlic, ras-el-hanout and ground cumin until golden brown, add the honey and drained soaked sultanas and bay leaf.
Transfer the caramelised aubergines and onion mixture to a large saucepan and add the tomato sauce or tinned chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook the soup for 25 - 30 minutes over low heat, if you boil the soup too fast the flavours will not develop and the liquid will evaporate, a gentle simmer is perfect.
Blitz the soup using a stick blender or a Thermomix until smooth, return the soup to the pan and if it's a bit too thick add a little bit more vegetable stock, bring the soup back to the simmer before serving. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Heat a non-stick frying pan and dry roast the almonds until they have a golden tint.
Garnish the soup with a swirl of natural yoghurt, sliced spring onions and a dusting of the golden dry toasted almonds.