"If you’re going to go to the effort of firing up the barbecue, it makes sense to use it for more than just a quick chargrilling of some burgers or sausages. To really get the most out of your barbecue and to keep those delicious smoky aromas going for longer, it makes sense to cook your salads, side dishes and even desserts over the embers. Mediterranean vegetables lend themselves particularly well to slow grilling, as do stone fruits like peaches, apricots, plums or nectarines."
This aubergine salad is a wonderful barbecue side dish, or an entire main course in its own right. Plump, glossy aubergines are grilled over the flames until wrinkled, the flesh becoming tender and deliciously smoky inside the skin. Scoop this out and mix with some tangy balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses to accentuate the sweet, caramelized flavours, then toss with peppery leaves and slow-cooked shallots. I normally scatter pomegranate seeds over aubergine dishes: they go so well together, and the vibrant seeds perk up the dark vegetable both visually and in terms of flavour. However, recently I decided to experiment with using redcurrants. These jewel-like berries are the English answer to pomegranate seeds, and work just as well strewn through salads, where they add a gorgeous pop of colour and welcome bite of sharpness.
I love this dish with Middle Eastern grilled chicken shawarma, and it’s also excellent with chargrilled lamb chops . However, to make it into a substantial main course, add some thick slices of salty, grilled halloumi. I can’t get enough of this bouncy, tangy cheese during the summer, and here its creamy, strong flavour and delightful squeaky texture are wonderful against the background of the smoky aubergine and sharp currants. It’s a great barbecue dish for vegetarians, full of exciting Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours but also making the most of beautiful English summer berries.
Pre-heat the grill to 240C, or prepare a barbecue for cooking. Put the aubergines on a tray lined with foil, and grill for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is wrinkled and the flesh is completely soft inside. Alternatively, place on the barbecue and cook in the same way. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the shallots over a low heat for 10-20 minutes until completely soft and caramelized. Season well and set aside.
Scoop the aubergine flesh out of the skins. Discard the skins. Mix the flesh with the balsamic vinegar, a generous amount of seasoning, and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Toss together with the watercress and half the redcurrants and divide between three or four plates.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan or in the oven until golden brown.
Cut the halloumi into 1cm slices and cook over a high heat in a griddle pan, frying pan or again, on the barbecue. You want nice char marks on either side and for the halloumi to caramelise slightly.
Divide the cheese between the plates, then scatter over the pine nuts and remaining redcurrants. Drizzle over the pomegranate molasses. Garnish with mint leaves, if you like, then serve immediately.