Saturday, April 27, 2013

Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh Soup

Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh Soup 2

A "new to me" blog I discovered recently is Blue Kale Road.  I was lured in when I came across this post for a Persian spice blend called Advieh and a Kidney Bean and Barberry Kuku, an adaptation of an Ottolenghi dish.  By the time I'd read to the end, I was hooked - after all, any woman who cooks Ottolenghi is a woman after my own heart.  I've continued to enjoy Hannah's posts ever since, and when she recently stopped by my blog and suggested that I join the Tasting Jerusalem group (a group dedicated to cooking their way through Ottolenghi's book, Jerusalem:A Cookbook), I was in.

The challenge this month is couscous, and we had the option of making Couscous with Tomato & Onion or Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh (Israeli couscous) Soup.  I had all good intentions of making the couscous with tomato and onion, but as it happened I had a pile of aubergines in the veggie bin which needed using up, so soup it was.  Besides, I'd had this one bookmarked for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it.

This week is also Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we continue our journey with Yotam Ottolenghi, so this post is doing double duty.

Now I did take quite a few liberties with the recipe, and what follows is my adaptation.  If you want the original recipe you'll find it on page 141 of the book.

Firstly - "burning" the aubergines.  Ottolenghi offers a method for doing this of lining the base of a gas hob with tin foil and then blackening the aubergines 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!!

Secondly, the recipe calls for slicing onions, chopping tomatoes and mincing garlic.  As it turns out I have on hand several batches of homemade sauce, which contains all of those ingredients, inspired by this sauce from the lovely Nicola at Homegrown Kitchen.  Although I love making things from scratch, I can also be incredibly lazy, so it made no sense to me to go through all that chopping and slicing again, when I could just bust out a cup of that sauce.

Roasted Vegetable Sauce

Thirdly, in addition to the burnt aubergine which gets blitzed into the soup base, Ottolenghi fries additional aubergine which serves as a garnish to the finished soup.  Fried aubergine, I have to say, just doesn't happen in my world - although it is undeniably delicious, I don't have the patience for standing over pans of frying aubergine, not to mention the amount of oil that it uses.  Much easier, less messy (and no doubt healthier) to toss with a little olive oil and bake in the oven.

The final dish exceeded all my expectations.  The flavour is deep, smoky and intense, and the mograbieh (also known as Israeli couscous) along with the chunks of roasted aubergine add great textural interest.  Now I know that there are those amongst you who could eat soup every night of the week - I am not one of those people.  Soup is something I do on occasion, but it's definitely not a "go-to" dish for me.  Well let me tell you that this is the soup that could potentially change all that - this is so good that I feel like I want to eat this every night for the rest of my life ... or at least until the next great Ottolenghi dish comes along.

Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh Soup 3

Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh Soup Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Makes 4 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

3x large aubergine
olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup roasted vegetable sauce (see above)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
zest & juice of 1x lemon
100g (3-1/2 oz) mograbieh (Israeli couscous)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).

Cut one aubergine into large dice, toss generously with olive oil, and spread in a single layer in a shallow, parchment-lined baking dish.  Season liberally with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Put into the hot oven and bake until the aubergine pieces are golden brown and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Roasted Eggplant, Mango & Soba Noodle Salad 5

Meanwhile, cut a few long slashes through the skin of the remaining two aubergine, 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.

Burnt Aubergine & Mograbieh Soup 1

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 continue with the rest of the dish.

Now heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin seeds and as soon as they are fragrant and sizzling, add the tomato paste.  Cook for a moment or two, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste is "caramelised".  Add the roasted vegetable sauce, chicken stock, water, lemon juice (reserve the zest), salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, set a small pan of water over high heat and bring to the boil.  Salt the water liberally, and add the couscous to the boiling water.  Cook exactly as you would any pasta, until al dente.  Drain and refresh under cold water.

Now add the burnt aubergine flesh which has been draining to the soup.  Remove from the heat and, using a stick blender, puree till smooth.  Reserve some of the oven-baked aubergine and couscous for garnishing and add the rest to the soup.

Simmer for another few minutes to heat everything through.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve immediately in warm bowls, with a sprinkling of the reserved aubergine and couscous on top.  Garnish with a little lemon zest and basil, and finish with a generous swirl of your very best extra virgin olive oil.

Lip-smacking, drooling and orgasmic sighs as you devour this are all totally permissible.

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 Tasting Jerusalem (Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and liking our Facebook page), at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and often hilarious, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, and at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge            Souper Sundays Badge


  1. Sue - I am so glad you found Tasting Jerusalem through Hannah. I adore Hannah and her blog so it's double thrilling to me that that's how you found us. I love everything about your decisions and changes to this recipe and am determined to make this tomorrow.

    There is another Ottolenghi eggplant recipe served over polenta that you make from fresh corn that you must try - it's in Plenty but I found it online, I think through Food52. Here it is: If you love this dish, I bet you will adore this corn one as well. I made it and fell in love.

    Glad to know of I Heart Cooking Clubs as well - especially since you are cooking Ottolenghi now. What a great resource.

    1. Thanks so much, Beth - yes, Hannah's blog is gorgeous isn't it. Hope you enjoy this recipe when you make it - I'm sure you will.

      I'm definitely checking out that eggplant and polenta recipe - sounds like my idea of fabulous. Fresh corn season is pretty much finished here now, so I would have to make it with traditional polenta right now, but will definitely try in the summer as well with fresh corn when that time comes around again.

      Do check out I Heart Cooking Clubs, and of course you are most welcome to join us if you like.

  2. I'm delighted you've joined the Tasting Jerusalem group, Sue! I appreciate your kind words. This soup looks beautiful and I love the changes you made. I just picked up eggplant yesterday to make it this weekend. I was having similar thoughts regarding burning the eggplant - the oven seemed a bit messy and since we just pulled out our barbecue for spring it seems a great opportunity to cook it on there. I'm happy to know it works well and I can imagine it adds even more smoky flavor. Your photos are quite tempting!

    1. Thanks, Hannah. I really enjoyed making (and eating this soup), and hope you will too. The barbeque really works brilliantly for blackening the aubergine, and yes it does add some lovely smoky flavour. I usually do my peppers this way too.

  3. What a beautiful looking soup! Great job :)

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  4. These recent blog posts Sue have been so enticing and inspiring. I have tried a few things from the Jerusalem book and they are all delicious. That said I've shied away from the burning aubergine exercise before now. I shall have to crack open the barbeque and see what happens.

    1. Thanks, Julie. Pleased you've had success with the dishes you've tried from Jerusalem - I think it is such an inspirational book. Definitely give the aubergine a try on the barbeque - you won't be disappointed.

  5. I've got Jerusalem so I'm definitely going to be trying this soup. It looks so delicious like all of Ottolenghi's recipes!

    1. Thanks, hope you enjoy it :-) So many great recipes in Jerusalem.

  6. Wow! This is a really beautiful bowl of soup! I have a sensitivity to eggplant, but love it so much that I periodically throw caution to the wind and eat it with relish! This is a recipe that would grab right onto! Your photos are just gorgeous too! Wow! Terrific post and find (Hello, Blue Kale Road !)

    1. Thanks so much for your very kind words, Susan. Oh dear, a sensitivity to eggplant is not enviable, but this is a dish that is definitely worth throwing caution to the wind over.

  7. Hi Sue,
    A beautiful and delicious bowl of soup! I have never had eggplant in a soup before! The changes you've made sounds wonderful. You have turned this recipe into something of your own! And a delicious one too!
    Have a great week ahead!

    1. Thanks, Joyce. I'd never had aubergine in a soup until now either, but it really worked. It really gave beautiful texture and amazing smoky flavour.

  8. What a gorgeous bowl of soup! I am pretty sure I have this one tagged to make in Jerusalem--now I am going back to make sure. I love Israeli couscous and need to use it more.

    Thanks for sharing with Souper Sundays this week too! ;-)

    1. Thanks, Deb. If you don't already have this one tagged, go and do it right now - you will totally love this one.

  9. OMG! I am salivating! This is my kind of soup, all those flavours & love toppings! And so glad you found Blue Kale Hannah's blog, just wonderful food. This soup is now pretty close to the top of ever growing must make list!

    1. Thanks, Mairi. Isn't it funny how "toppings" transform soup from ordinary into something so much more elegant and appealing - guess it's that old eat with our eyes thing.

  10. That is an incredible looking bowl of soup, Sue! The colors, the flavors, everything about it looks phenomenal. I found Tasting Jerusalem on facebook but didn't know they were a group cooking their way through the book. Will have to check that out.

    1. Thanks, Kim - it sure is wonderful soup. Definitely check out Tasting Jerusalem - I'm sure you'd enjoy cooking along.

  11. Tasting Jerusalem sounds like it was made for you! But before I go any further I have to say that your presentation is stunning. That drizzle of olive oil...don't think I didn't's that little something that pulls everything together.

    I missed potluck week. Better get my act together; I'm missing out on some good stuff!

    Thank you for linking this week, Sue. And thank you for saying that I'm hilarious, although you can't imagine the pressure you've just caused...(kidding!).

    1. Thanks so much, Michelle - you're very kind. I'm definitely enjoying connecting up with the Tasting Jerusalem group. Oh, and for the record, you are definitely hilarious xo


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