Shawarma-Inspired Aubergine Flatbreads
The secret to preparing vegetables that mimic how meat acts and tastes in a recipe is pretty straight forward: just treat it like meat. What we mean by that is to just adapt and replicate the processes typically associated with cooking meats, when cooking plants. Our new series, “How to Replace Meat in Everything” explores just how to do that in an easy, unfussy and delicious way.
Very few vegetables have the ability to develop texture and flavour as creamy, deep and rich as aubergines and these flatbreads are a great place to channel all those attributes. After being pan fried and stewed in order to achieve a shawarma-like melty and buttery texture the aubergines are topped onto yoghurt-y flatbreads and topped with crunchy vegetables and bright pickled onions.
Salting, pan frying and then stewing the aubergine results in a buttery, soft, creamy texture which is worlds away from the tough and chewy aubergine sometimes present in my nightmares. The secret to that perfect texture is to salt the aubergine to remove excess moisture from it and then cook it fully in that first frying stage - rather than relying on the liquid in the second stage to cook it through. Take your time in each stage and you'll be thoroughly rewarded. It’s also very hard to overcook aubergine and when it is overcooked it actually just melts into the sauce which is no bad thing, so I was err on the side of overcooking rather than undercooking it.
1 + 1 tsp salt, divided
1 + 3 tbsp (60g) olive oil, divided
2 white onions (300g), sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
5 medium-sized tomatoes (300g) chopped
2 tbsp/30g tomato paste
2 tbsp/30g balsamic vinegar
20g parsley, chopped
½ lemon, juiced
4 flatbreads, store bought or homemade
100g tomatoes, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
200g plant based greek yoghurt
Pickled onions, optional
Start by cubing the aubergine into roughly 3x3cm pieces. Place the aubergine into a colander set over the sink and sprinkle it with 1 tsp salt. Rub the salt into the aubergine using your hands, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy set pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat them in oil. Sauté the onions for 10-12 minutes, until soft.
Stir in the garlic and ¼ tsp salt and continue to sauté the onions for 5-6 more minutes, until they're starting to caramelise.
Next, add the spices along with a splash of water and stir to deglaze the pan. Cook the spices for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook them down for 5-6 minutes, until they’ve softened. Next, add the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar, and cook them for 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the onions and tomatoes out of the pot and into a bowl, then wipe the pot clean.
Rinse the aubergine to remove excess salt, then pat it completely dry using kitchen roll or a clean kitchen towel.
Add 3 tbsp of oil to the pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the aubergine and stir to coat it in oil. Pan fry the aubergine for 18-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s golden brown in colour and soft throughout.
Add the onions and tomato back into the pot and stir to coat the aubergine. Stir in the water and ¼ tsp salt.
Continue to cook aubergine for 8-10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Stir in the half of the chopped parsley and the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste.
In a small bowl, toss the sliced tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil and pomegranate molasses together.
Grill the flatbreads, then top them with a spoonful of yoghurt followed by the stewed aubergine, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes as well as pickled onions (if using) and the reserved parsley.
By Valentina Concordia
Valentina is our Food Editor, who dreams up our tasty dishes and recipes for our social channels. She has loads of experience cooking up a storm in Italian kitchens, so it’s no surprise she can’t live without good-quality olive oil (don’t come between her and her olive oil) and fresh pasta.