My relationship with aubergines is nothing short of a full-blown love affair. They are a complete textural delight and are the most incredible sponge for flavour. I adore this dish – it makes an incredible vegetarian main course or starter. The combination of aubergine, sweet pomegranate molasses and chilli heat is so pleasing against the flaky butter-enriched puff pastry.
2 large aubergines (about 800g total weight)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds, dry-roasted
1 heaped tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Flour, for dusting
1 x 320g sheet of puff pastry
1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons sour cream
Handful of pomegranate seeds
Handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20g toasted pistachios
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan), gas mark 6.
Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the aubergine has softened completely. Allow the aubergines to cool, scoop out the flesh and put to one side.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan, place over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry the onion for 15–20 minutes until it turns a deep golden brown, then add the paprika, chilli powder and cumin seeds. Cook gently for 1 minute until the spices release their aroma. Add the aubergine flesh to the pan along with the pomegranate molasses and mix thoroughly. Cook the mixture for a few minutes until the oil starts rising to the surface of the aubergines. Season to taste with salt and allow the mixture to cool.
To make the vol-au-vent cases, remove the pastry from the fridge and unroll onto a lightly floured worktop. Working quickly while the pastry is still cool, cut it into four 8cm squares. Carefully place the pastry squares onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Use a knife to score a shallow border about 1.5cm from the edge, taking care to not cut the whole way through. Prick the inner part with a fork and brush the border with the beaten egg. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 220°C (200°C fan), gas mark 6 and bake the vol-au-vents for 12–15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and puffed up. Remove from the oven and allow the vol-au- vents to cool.
Scoop out the top layer of the pastry from the centre of the vol-au-vents to create a ‘nest’ and fill the vol-au-vents with the aubergine mixture. Dollop over the sour cream and scatter with the pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley and toasted pistachios. Serve immediately.
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