I could never imagine a roast dinner without the meat. I know that at Christmas time, the vegetarian option is often nut-roast. I've never had it but I'll be honest, it's never ever appealed to me. As a meat-eater, I do have the choice of chicken, beef, pork and lamb and the struggle is real. But no one has ever made nut-roast sound appealing in any way shape or form. Ever.
I imagine, as a vegetarian it's quite difficult to get excited about Christmas dinner or Sunday roast or a pub lunch if you know that yet another nut-roast awaits you. What people have started doing now are cheese and roast vegetable puff pastry tarts. even they have become predictable and lacklustre. I remember sitting next to a vegetarian at a wedding once and he had a roasted mediterranean vegetable puff pastry tart. He looked at his girlfriend and grinned. The pastry was soggy on the bottom (channelling my inner Mary Berry), the vegetables were red peppers with a couple of courgettes and it was under seasoned. I shuddered and thanked my luck stars that I was eating the roast chicken.
So I get it, the struggle is very real. I have never made a nut-roast and any vegetable tart I make has peppers in it as an afterthought. Too sweet for a savoury tart in my mind. So I thought I would experiment. It's Easter and there are plenty of vegetarians celebrating this Holiday that, obviously, don't eat lamb. Aubergines. They're often roasted... and then mushed into m'tabbal and baba ghannoush. So I roasted them. And kept them whole (ish) and stuffed them. It's so good!
This dish is not only good for vegetarians but for a lighter summertime Sunday roast. It's delicious and flavourful and I love it. I served mine with thin, crispy thyme potatoes and hummus. But you can serve it with all the normal trimmings too. Just maybe not the gravy...
Stuffed Roast Aubergines
2 large aubergines, halved
6 large tomatoes, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 red chilli, minced, seeds in if you prefer
100g hazelnuts, crushed
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp coriander
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Parsley leaves to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Lay the aubergine halves on a roasting tray, cut side up and drizzle over all except a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put it in the oven for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, use the rest of the olive oil to fry off the garlic and chilli. Add the hazelnuts and stir them in the flavoured oil briefly. Add the tomatoes and cook the down until they almost form a sauce, stirring frequently. Once the tomatoes are softer, add the spices and simmer for 15 minutes.
Once the aubergines are nice and soft, scoop out the flesh and add it to the tomato mix. Mix it in well and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Return the skins to the oven to crisper up. Keep and eye on them so they don't burn!
Lay the skins on a platter to serve and scoop in the filling. Top with chopped fresh parsley.