Chargrilled pepper, eggplant and basil salad
I have come to the conclusion of late that spring is really one big tease. One day it is beautiful and I find myself enjoying a cup of tea in the sun, my winter-white skin exposed in short sleeves; the next the sky has closed in and I’m searching for my favourite scarf and woolly socks to wrap up against the cold. Consequently, one day the mood suits light, leafy greens and then next more substantial meals.
I think this is the perfect spring salad, not because it uses especially seasonal produce, but because it is a salad with some weight, especially when served with crusty white bread for lunch, or alongside a spring lamb rack or grilled beef for a complete meal. And I think few would argue that the flavour of fresh basil doesn’t make you think of summer being just around the corner.
This winter my partner and I bought our first house (affectionately named “The Tiny House”) so we are experiencing spring for the first time in our new garden. So far I have managed to grow mint (although I would like to hear from anyone who can’t grow mint) and kill a tomato plant kindly given to me by one of the engineers. I plan on spending time in the garden over the next few months, learning some tricks of the trade and nourishing my soil so that hopefully next spring I will have plenty of home-grown treats. This year however I think I will be reliant on my local market to provide for me, which luckily last weekend it did when I found the most beautiful, reasonably priced tiger eggplants which I used in this salad. If your local market doesn’t have eggplant, you could always replace it with courgettes for a delicious alternative.
1 each large red, yellow and orange pepper
2 medium-sized eggplants
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
olive oil to brush eggplant with
2 good handfuls fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1. Wash the peppers and place either under the grill or over gas flame and blacken. Once well blackened, place in a bowl and cover with cling film. Leave for around 20 minutes to steam the skins – this makes them easy to remove.
2. Preheat oven to 180ºC on Bake. While the pepper are steaming, cut eggplant into 2cm thick rounds and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic slices on lined baking tray and top with eggplant rounds (this way the garlic flavour steams into the eggplant).
3. Roast the eggplant for around 20 minutes – until it is starting to brown and the middle is pleasantly mushy.
4. Peel skins from blackened peppers and discard. Slice peppers into thin strips (around 1/2cm wide), and do the same with the eggplant rounds.
5. In a large bowl combine the sliced vegetables and set aside to cool for 10 minutes (this salad is best served at room temperature).
6. Roughly tear in the basil leaves. Toss with your fingers until mixed through.
7. Combine balsamic vinegar and olive oil, season to taste and pour over salad. Serve on a platter along side crusty white bread.