Recipe Friday: Aubergine Fesenjan

It's our third and final share from Meera Sodha's new book Fresh India, out now. This gluten-free and dairy-free, fresh and delicious Aubergine Fesenjan. 

Meera Sodha's scrumptious Aubergine Fesenjan.

Meera Sodha's scrumptious Aubergine Fesenjan.

Meera says: "The first time I met my husband was in his kitchen. He was standing amid a mountain of empty pomegranate shells and the kitchen looked like a crime scene, with red juice splattered up the walls. He wanted to impress me with this fesenjan, a dish that was often found on the tables of Indian Mughal emperors in the 1500s and 1600s but originally from Persia. Luckily, these days you can buy pomegranate molasses – which is what I told him (and it broke the ice). We got married last summer and now cook this dish together with good memories and much less mess." 

NOTE: You will need a food processor to grind the walnuts. 

Serves 4 as a main course 

120g walnuts
4 medium aubergines (1.2 kg) 

Rapeseed oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 large red onions, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1½ tablespoons honey
¾ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
250ml hot vegetable stock
Seeds from 1 pomegranate (see page 289 for how to deseed) 
A handful of fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and line a large baking tray with lightly oiled foil. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor to a fine crumb and leave to one side. 

Cut the aubergines into 5cm x 2cm batons, toss with oil, season lightly with salt and black pepper, and roast on the baking tray for 25 minutes or until meltingly soft. 

While the aubergines are roasting, make the fesenjan sauce. Put 3 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the red onions. Fry for 12 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure they don’t burn, then add the garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes. 

Add the honey, chilli powder, cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, the blitzed walnuts and the pomegranate molasses to the pan, and stir thoroughly to mix. Then add the vegetable stock and cook for around 8 minutes, until the sauce comes together. 

When the aubergines are tender, pour the sauce into a serving dish. Put the aubergines on top, and scatter with the pomegranate seeds and coriander. Serve alongside steamed basmati rice. 

Read more about Meera's love of cooking, and the inherited wooden spoon that helped her learn, in issue 31 of Oh Comely.