Brinjals so abundant in Israel, it could be Jewish

  • JTARecipe
From bulbous and egg-shaped to small and thin, the brinjal or eggplant (or if you’re British like me, the aubergine) is a staple fruit within Sephardic Jewish cooking.
by ALI ALT | Jul 12, 2018

Originating in India or perhaps even China, eggplant seeds are thought to have travelled along the Silk Road into the hands of Jews and Arabs as early as the 18th century. From there, eggplant has been used so often in Jewish cooking, some refer to it as the “Jewish apple”.

Eggplant is now enjoying a wonderful resurgence, particularly in Israel, where it is enjoyed in countless salads or served whole and roasted, topped with meat, tabbouleh, and often gobs of nutty tahini. No meal in Israel seems complete without a portion of smoky, roasted eggplant.

It’s so incredibly versatile: Eggplant can be stewed, stuffed, pickled, roasted or grilled. Historically known for its bitterness, the modern varieties don’t necessarily require salting, although I always do just in case any bitterness remains – especially when grilling, as this reduces the amount of oil that is soaked up.

In this recipe, I serve eggplant with a North African spice paste called chermoula, which is herb-filled, rich, and pungent. This fantastic sauce is begging to be made when the weather is warm and the plates moved outside.

Chermoula – a marvellous mixture of coriander, parsley, chilli, paprika, garlic, cumin and olive oil – is a Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian mainstay. While it is traditionally served with fish, I love it with grilled meats, fish, veggies, or even couscous.


For the eggplant:

3 medium eggplants

2 tablespoons fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

1/4 cup olive oil

For the chermoula:

1 cup packed coriander leaves

1/2 cup packed parsley leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves

3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1/4 cup preserved lemon juice or 1/3 cup of regular lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 teaspoons harissa paste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt, to taste

Good pinch of crushed saffron strands


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius).

2. Next, cut the eggplant lengthways into half inch (10cm) thick slices. Cover with salt, layer in a strainer, and leave to drain for 40 minutes.

3. While the eggplant is draining, make the chermoula. Put all the ingredients with only four tablespoons of the olive oil into a food processor with a good pinch of salt. Blend to a thick paste, and stir in enough of the remaining oil to make a sauce.

4. Pat the eggplants dry and in batches, brush with oil. In a griddle pan, grill over a medium heat for five to six minutes each side, until golden. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining slices.

5. When all the slices have been grilled, lay on a platter, and dollop with chermoula, a sprinkling of coriander, and pinch of sea salt.

Serves 8-10.



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