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Baklazhannaya ikra

Aubergine Caviar
Baklazhannaya ikra

For those unable to afford the luxury of fish roe at their table, this finely-chopped aubergine dish presents a tasty alternative - hence its nickname of 'Poor Man's Caviar'. This spicy 'caviar' originated in the Caucasus and was adopted by the Russians into their own cuisine. It is best served on thick slices of black bread. Try to resist eating the caviar right away so the flavours can combine overnight in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

3 aubergines (about 2 lb/1 kg)
pint (150 ml) olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 generous teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon salt
1 green pepper, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 large tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped, or 1 large tin of plum tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

Details

Serves: 8


Method

Place the aubergines in a baking dish and bake in a preheated 190°C/375°F/Gas 5 oven until tender, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.


Meanwhile, sauté the onions in the olive oil in a large, lidded frying pan until soft but not brown. Then add the chopped green pepper and the garlic and cook until the green pepper begins to soften. Peel the baked aubergines and chop the pulp finely. Add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil, cover, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 1 hour.


Remove the cover from the pan and continue to simmer the mixture until all excess liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick, but not dry. Stir occasionally. This final simmering will take from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the consistency of the veget­ables. When the mixture is ready, stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. I usually add black pepper liberally at this point.


Transfer the caviar to a bowl and chill, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Variation: Marrow Caviar - Ikra iz kabachkov

Marrow is a favourite vegetable in southern Russia. The Russian word for marrow, kabachok, also means 'little tavern'. The mass of tiny seeds clustered in the flesh of the vegetable is said to be reminiscent of people clustered in a tavern. This is a good way to use up an over-abundance of marrow from a summer garden. Simply follow the directions above for Aubergine Caviar, substituting 2 lb (1 kg) marrow or courgettes for the aubergines. Do not peel them. Bake them for only 15 to 20 minutes in the oven, and then proceed as directed above.


Note: Olive oil must be used in these recipes for 'caviar'.

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