Host/ Recipes

Maria’s Aubergine Chermoula

We asked WeFiFo Host and Mentor Maria Grieco to share some of the dishes she loves to cook for her guests.
The first recipe from Maria is an Aubergine Chermoula. Vegetarian, healthy, delicious and comes in at less than £3.00 for the whole dish!

Maria says: I am most definitely not a vegetarian but I do love the variety of vegetables available to all of us and the flexibility and symphony of combinations that you can very easily put together with little effort or cost.

I have been hosting with WeFiFo for over a year and I have lost count of the dinner parties that I have held where the star dish of the night is a vegetarian dish. Quite often when people come to dinner they walk through the door with a list of things they don’t like and hand on heart almost every single time they leave the table having fallen in love with a dish or vegetable that in the past they have avoided or written off.

{Maria Grieco – photography by Sophie Brown}

We once had a guest who emailed before the supper club event stating “I am petrified of vegetables” and went home with vegetarian leftovers in a takeaway tub!

I wasn’t the biggest fan of aubergine; to be honest it’s stemmed from the fact that I never really knew what I wanted to do with it. My father who is Italian makes a fantastically simple dish by just dipping them in egg and frying them. I love Middle Eastern food and this recipe heroes the aubergine and sweet red peppers. It is the ideal complement for meat dishes or warm on its own as part of a mezze in a pita or wrap, drizzled with yogurt and served with rice, couscous or bulgar wheat, on a night when I had little time to rustle up dinner I have even served it with pasta.

Originally Chermoula is a marinade used in Algerian, Libyan, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking. It is traditionally used to flavour fish or seafood, but it can be used on other meats or vegetables. I have been known to use all sorts of left over vegetables into this dish and it works every single time so it’s a great meal to make to empty the veg rack of all things wrinkly and shrunk instead of throwing them into the compost bin. I have even been known to put left over baked beans into it!

{Dinner at Maria’s – photography by Alan Ingram}

This serves 6 as part of mezze or 4 as an accompaniment to a meat dish. You can easily feed this to 4 hungry vegetable lovers as a main meal, served with couscous and some form of flat bread.  Make this dish your own! Go ahead and add to it until your hearts content.

The cost of ingredients (on a bad day if I had to buy everything) is £2.87 which works out as 48p as a mezze and 72p as a main meal not including the accompaniments.

Aubergine Chermoula:

Olive oil
2 aubergines cut into 1inch cubes
Sea salt
1/2 a large onion (1 small), thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed into a paste
1 tsp of ground cumin
1tsp of sweet paprika
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2 red pepper, cut into thin strips
handful of raisins/sultanas
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
2 tsp of caster sugar
2 tbsp of clear honey (although if you swapped the honey out for Agave Syrup this dish would be Vegan!)

Method:

Cook the sliced aubergine in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Season with salt and saute until golden brown. Remove the aubergine from the pan and set aside.

Put the pan back on the heat and reduce the temperature. Add the sliced onions and cook slowly to caramelise. As they start to brown add the garlic paste, cumin, cinnamon and paprika. Stir to combine, and then add the pepper.

Cook out until the peppers have softened, and then add the raisins and season with a little more salt. Cook for another 5 minutes before adding the tin of tomatoes. When the mixture begins to simmer add the vinegar, sugar and honey.

Increase the temperature to high and cook for a minute or two, stirring continually to ensure the mixture does not burn or stick. Then reduce the heat again.

Using a potato masher, lightly mash the mixture and stir to ensure that everything it evenly cooked.

Add the cooked aubergine and cook for about 8 minutes over a low heat. Then turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the hob to cool slightly.

Maria Grieco

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