A 'meaty' and delicious dish for vegetarians this Easter
Lilly Higgins: Roast aubergines can be used as a base for plenty of delicious toppings
I’m hosting Easter dinner this year and have decided to go the traditional route with a roast leg of lamb. I’m going to butterfly it and remove the bone, then cover it in wild garlic and rosemary paste, leaving it to marinate overnight before roasting it.
It’s one of the only times of year that I opt for a leg of lamb and it really is so delicious. Lamb can be controversial, though. It’s one of my favourite meats, probably because of its slightly gamey flavour. It has so much taste and is incredibly versatile. It can take strong flavours such as garlic, anchovies and rosemary.
I do have one vegetarian guest coming too though, so have gone to some of the most meaty and delicious vegetables for inspiration. Aubergines are not as divisive as lamb, but they do sometimes come up against opposition. Cooked the wrong way, they can be grim.
Halved, drizzled with olive oil and roasted, they are hard to resist. I love to paint the cut side with miso paste and roast it till it’s dark and caramelised. It tastes so good, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and served over rice, with a little kimchi.
Although I’m usually drawn to the more Middle Eastern way of cooking them, this dish is like a substantial salad, using the roasted aubergine as a base for plenty of delicious toppings, such as roasted tomatoes and wedges of red onion. The citric sweetness of the pomegranate is clean and fresh, and it balances the creamy, salty feta nicely.
This is an ideal main course when served with some crusty bread and a big green salad, or on its own it can be a starter. Toasted walnuts or pecans make a nice addition too, scattered over the top.
I sometimes roast aubergine with tomato and red onion this way, then chop it all up roughly and fold it through pasta with some Parmesan and herbs. It makes a rich pasta sauce, and you can add some dried chilli flakes for a fiery kick.
Mushrooms are my other go to when it comes to vegetarian main courses. Marinated in balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, they get even more depth and umami deliciousness. Mushrooms really work when cooked on a barbecue, when they take on charred, smokey qualities so well.
I plan on marinating some large flat mushrooms in the garlic and rosemary paste and roasting them this Sunday too. They’ll taste amazing along with roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese and carrot puree.
ROAST AUBERGINE WITH TOMATO AND FETA
2 small red onions
250g cherry tomatoes
100g feta cheese
Half a pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
2 tbsp chopped oregano or basil leaves
150g natural yogurt
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and line a tray with baking paper.
Halve the aubergines and score each flat half with a knife in a crisscross lattice pattern. Place them on the tray.
Peel and quarter the red onion into small wedges. Place on the tray along with the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle everything with olive oil and season with salt.
Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the tray as necessary, until the aubergine is soft and golden and the tomatoes are blistered.
Meanwhile, mix the yogurt with the hummus. Taste for seasoning. Spread the hummus mix evenly onto four plates. Top each with half an aubergine. Place the tomatoes and onion on top, followed by the crumbled feta, chopped herbs and pomegranate. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with a big green salad.