I'm a big fan of aubergine (or eggplant, as it's called if you live over the pond!) and I can always think of ways to cook with this yummy vegetable. I love it in curries or lasagnes especially, or on vegan pizza. But admittedly, I tend to be less adventurous with cauliflower.
When faced with me, cauliflowers often just end up in soups (although I do like to make vegetable pakora with them too!). However, I was determined to try something new this time with a cauliflower that I had in my fridge, and I have now discovered this very delicious way of cooking with them, combined with my favourite - aubergine.
This Cauliflower Purée with Sun-Dried Tomato & Cashew Crusted Aubergine recipe is especially good because although it sounds and looks quite fancy, you can put it together from a standard supermarket shopping trip. None of the ingredients are hard to come by, as the addition of nutritional yeast is only optional.
I'm sure two very hungry people could manage to eat the amount in this recipe if having as an entree, although I think there is easily enough for three people - especially if you serve with a side of greens, such as grilled asparugus or wilted spinach.
I didn't add any salt into the sun-dried tomato and cashew topping because the tomatoes are already so strongly flavoured, although I sprinkled a tiny amount on the eggplant/aubergine while cooking. It's up to you whether you want to do this as well - if you prefer less salt, then omit.
This recipe isn't a major time-sucker either - it only takes about 45 minutes in total for preparing and cooking. And you could do this recipe oil-free by using vegetable broth in place of the olive oil (although I do think you get better results if you ensure to use it in just the tiniest amount for brushing on the aubergine, while it grills).
Cauliflower Purée with Sun-dried Tomato & Cashew-Crusted Aubergine
Serves 3 as a main course, 6 as a starter
For the purée:
1 small head cauliflower, broken into florets and steamed
1¼ cup (approx) / 300g potato, diced, peeled, and cooked
1 cup + 2 tablespoons / 90ml unsweetened soya milk
2 cloves garlic (or 1 large clove)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch paprika for garnish (optional)
For the aubergine and crust:
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
½ cup / 50g sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup / 60ml boiling water
½ cup / 75g plain cashews
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Extra olive oil for brushing
Pinch salt for sprinkling on aubergine
1. Turn on your grill (broiler) to start heating and line the grill pan with foil. Cut the aubergine (eggplant) into 6 slices lengthways, then brush very lightly with olive oil and lay out on the grill pan, then place under the heat.
2. Cook the aubergine for about 20 minutes per side. After the aubergine has browned on one side, turn over and brush the other side with oil, and sprinkle very lightly with salt. Grill for about 15 minute before you spread on the Cashew & Sun-Dried Tomato Crust for the final 5 minutes of cooking.
3. While the aubergine is cooking, prepare the crust and purée.
4. To make the crust: Put the sun-dried tomatoes into a small beaker or cup, and pour 60ml of boiling water over them. Let them soak for about 15 minutes (the soaking water will be retained).
5. After the tomatoes have soaked, drain them and keep the water in another container. In a blender, blend the tomatoes with the tarragon and olive oil until smooth, and then add the cashews and around 4 tablespoons of the water that the sun-dried tomatoes were in too.
6. Blend the topping until relatively smooth but not so much that the nuts are blended in entirely – you want it to be a crust with some nut fragments, rather than a paste.
7. Once the aubergine has grilled both sides, and is in the last 5 minutes, take out from under the grill and spread the crust on each piece. Grill for another 5 minutes.
8. While the crusted aubergine is grilling, prepare the purée by blending all the ingredients. First blend the garlic by dropping the cloves into it as it is running. Then add the potatoes, cauliflower, margarine, milk, pepper, salt and nutritional yeast (if using). Blend well. Add the lemon juice at the end and pulse in.
9. Heat up the remaining amount of the saved tomato water, as this is going to be using to spoon around the final dish (just very lightly).
10. To serve, place a layer of the aubergine first on the plate, spoon on some purée, then add another layer of aubergine. Sprinkle a small amount of the tomato water (about a tablespoon) around the ensemble. Finally garnish with a tiny touch of paprika.