Monday, June 3, 2013

Quick Pickled Lemons and Fish & Caper Kebabs with Burnt Aubergine

Fish & Caper Kebabs with Quick Pickled Lemons & Burnt Aubergine

New Zealanders as a people are sports-mad in general, and rugby-mad in particular.  It is without doubt our national sport, and it's importance is so deeply embedded in our national psyche, that details of some amazing triumph on the rugby field or, shudder the thought, devastating defeat (heads must surely roll), will often be lead story in our national news broadcast ahead of child kidnappings, murders, parlimentarians in trouble, or earthquakes in China.  We know here what's really important!

At the end of a rugby match, the captains of each team are always interviewed for their comments.  And I can wager, a pound to a pinch of the proverbial, that their statement will always begin with the words, "Well, it was a game of two halves, and full credit to the other team ... blah, blah, blah".

Why, am I telling you all this.  Because this is going to be a post of two halves, with once again full credit to Yotam Ottolenghi.

In the first half of this post, I'm bringing you Ottolenghi's Quick Pickled Lemons.  At I Heart Cooking Clubs, our Monthly Community Recipe for the month of May was preserved lemons, either the traditional method which takes 4-6 weeks of curing, or this quick pickled version, ready in 24 hours.  As I have already posted preserved lemons here before - in fact they were the very first thing I ever posted on this blog - I decided to give the quick pickles a try.  These quick pickles, I have to say, are incredibly moreish and I know that these just became a "refrigerator staple" for me to accompany all manner of things.  I would still urge anyone to have a go at preserved lemons as well.  I always have at least a jar or two in my fridge - they are incredibly easy to make (and very cheap compared to bought ones), and they are invaluable for bring wonderful flavour to stews, casseroles, couscous, salads, and even dressings.  If you do a search of preserved lemons on this blog, you will find a number of recipes in which I've used them.

Quick Pickled Lemons

In the second half of the post, the Quick Pickled Lemons are served up with Fish & Caper Kebabs and Burnt Aubergine, from Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  I'd had this recipe bookmarked for a while, and with out theme this week of "Pattycake, Pattycake" at I Heart Cooking Clubs, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give these a try.

The fishcakes - light and delicate (no stodgy fishcakes, these babies), with the little hits of briny capers - were an absolute hit around here.   The burnt aubergine accompaniment - sumptuous smokey flavour, enhanced with garlic and herbs - may possibly have been an even bigger hit.  With the pickled lemons on the side, this was a stunning meal.  Apart from a bit of work involved in preparation of the lemon and aubergine, both of which could be done well in advance, this makes a quick and easy meal to put together for a midweek supper - a great dish for entertaining too.

Quick Pickled Lemons
Adapted (slightly) from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1x smallish red chilli, roughly chopped
juice of 1x lemon
3x medium lemons
(halved lengthwise, then sliced widthways as thinly as possible)
35g caster sugar
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1x clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon smokey paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Grind the chilli to a rough paste with juice of 1/2 lemon in a mortar and pestle.  Transfer to a large bowl with the juice of the other half of the lemon, and all the remaining ingredients.  Mix everything together well, massaging all the flavourings into the lemons.  Cover the bowl and leave on the bench overnight.  Next day transfer to a clean, sterilised jar and refrigerate.  Will keep for approximately 2 weeks.

Fish & Caper Kebabs with Burnt Aubergine Recipe
Adapted, slightly, from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

Burnt Aubergine
3x medium aubergine
1/4 cup natural, unsweetened yoghurt
1x garlic clove, roughly chopped
generous handful flat-leaf parsley leaves
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Fish Kebabs
430g white fish, skinned & boned (I used tarakihi)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons capers
generous handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
grated zest of 1x lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

sunflower oil for frying

Begin by burning the aubergines.  Cut a few long slashes through the skin of each one,  and put onto the grill of a hot barbeque.  Turn regularly and cook until the skin is black and flaky, and the flesh is soft - about 15- 20 minutes. (* See note below)

Remove the aubergines from the heat and leave until cool enough to handle.  Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the soft flesh in long strips and discard the blackened skin.  Put the flesh into a sieve set over a bowl for any water to drain out of the flesh while you prepare the fish kebabs.

Cut the fish into very thin slices, and then into very tiny dice,  Put the diced fish into a bowl.  Add the breadcrumbs, egg, capers, herbs, lemon zest and juice, and spices.  Season generously with flaky sea salt and pepper.  Mix everything together well, and using your hands shape into small patties - you should get 10-12 patties depending on the size you make them.  Place the patties in a single layer on a plate or tray, cover and refrigerate for about half an hour to firm up.

Meanwhile finish off the burnt aubergine.  Put the drained aubergine flesh into the bowl of a food processor, along with the garlic, parsley, and yoghurt.  Add a generous pinch of flaky sea salt and a good grind of black pepper.  Pulse in the food processor a few times, just until everything is roughly chopped and combined.  Make sure that you keep a bit of texture - you don't want a smooth paste.  Set aside.

Set a frying pan over medium-high heat, and cover the base with a thin layer of oil.  Cook the kebabs in batches, until golden all over and cooked through - only a couple of minutes on each side.  They are very delicate, so do take care putting them into the pan and turning them.

Serve hot, with a generous dollop of the burnt aubergine on the side and a small amount of the quick pickled lemons.

*Note:  Ottolenghi offers a method for burning the aubergines of lining the base of a gas hob with tin foil and then blackening them directly in the flame. This smacks to me of "mess" and also having to stand over the flame and keep moving the aubergines around.  His alternative suggestion is doing them in the oven under a hot grill. My method of choice is doing them on the barbeque - altogether less mess and less fuss, and works perfectly.  You do want to make sure first of all that you make a few long slashes through the skin in each one - helps to prevent any possibility that they might explode!!

If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Ottolenghi Leek Badge resized

... or check out Jerusalem and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.


I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge


  1. Your quick pickled lemons have the sunniest and most beautifully yellow color! They are really stunning.

    It's nice to hear that the fishcakes are light and delicate. The only kind of fishcake I've ever had is a crab cake, which is equally light and delicate if done right. You and Deb really have me thinking that I need to give these cakes a try. I think I'd really like them, especially with a side of the burnt eggplant (boy does that look good)!

  2. These fishcakes were wonderful and of course the burnt eggplant! A definite winner recipe.

    I love how well you featured the quick pickled lemons. I forgot to take any separate pictures of mine besides in the dish, and by the time I remembered I had used up 2/3 of the jar! ;-)

  3. I've seen this at Deb's and now here. A definite bookmarked to try! I am ever so drooling over the burnt eggplant! Lovely dish, Sue! And the pickled lemon is simply wonderful!

  4. Yummy this recipe sounds delicious! Cannot wait to try :)

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  5. Two more recipes to add to my ever-growing list! I'd already decided that the pickled lemons were a must, but your gorgeous plate and rave review of the fish cakes with aubergine have convinced me to add these as well.

  6. yummy combination of flavours looks fabulous

  7. This needs to go on my next menu. The flavor combinations on this plate are fabulous!

    Rugby players sound surprisingly like American baseball players.

    Thank you for linking up!

  8. I just used up my last jar of preserved lemons. I'll have to make these quick pickles to tide me over until I can start another jar of preserved lemons.

  9. I live in Oregon and have been nursing along a Meyer lemon tree on the South side of my house. I just picked the last lemon for the season (I get about 15 a year) and am deeply envious of your tree. How about having a lemon giveaway?

    irene of Photo Booth NC

  10. I really admire your dedication to working your way through all these recipes. I really need to pull finger and get my preserved lemons replenished.

  11. I am always a bit wary of pickling and preserving things myself but you've convinced me that it's worth trying!


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