Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A - Aubergine with Chermoula, Bulgar and Yoghurt

A photograph of Aubergine with Chermoula, Bulgar and Yoghurt.
Aubergine with Chermoula, Bulgar and Yoghurt.

“Few ingredients have reached the level of veneration achieved by the humble aubergine or have found their way to almost every table in Jerusalem for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everybody loves to be associated with the aubergine – it’s like a little local celebrity.”

- Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tammimi in ‘Jerusalem’.

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More photographs and the rest of the post, after the jump

  Before I launch into a description of the first dish of the project, I have a confession to make – I LOVE collecting cookbooks. I love collecting books in general, but amongst these, cookbooks hold a special place. I will never, ever, own an eBook reader, because, I swear, I will never, ever read a book online. I love the feel of a book too much – be it a heavy hardback tome or a light little number that I can fit into my handbag. I also like collecting books because I think a person’s library is definitive, or at least suggestive, of that person. For the same reason, I don’t enjoy looking up recipes online – which is a bit backward in this day and age, I know. If I do find a good recipe online, it gets jotted down in my own recipe book. So it is always from books that I cook and I like to think that our little library (which is slowly growing) characterises us – both as cooks and in terms of the things we like to eat.

It is always a thrill to cook a recipe from a newly-acquired cookbook. Our first recipe is from the new book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. We are just discovering these two chefs, but we think it may be love at first taste. This book is a fantastic mix of wonderful and accessible recipes, stunning photography and honest and engaging writing. I had been eyeing it for a while and was lucky to nab the last copy remaining at Myer after the tumult of the end of year sales. I literally snatched it off the shelf and scurried off to the register with it.

A photograph of the ingredients used to make Aubergines with Chermoula, Bulgar and Yoghurt.
Getting started.

But back to the dish of the week – Aubergine with Chermoula, Bulgar and Yoghurt. In a word: simply scrumptious. Wait, that’s two words. But the dish deserves it – “scrumptious” on its own would not cut it at all. This was a great dish to prepare on a Sunday night – relatively quick and painless, wholesome (healthy box ticked – good start to the Project!), and with simple though quite lengthy list of ingredients.

A photograph of Aubergine with Chermoula, as they came out of the oven.
 Fresh from the oven.

It’s a perfect marriage of flavours – the preserved lemon lends a lovely zing to the chermoula (a fiery paste from North Africa made here with garlic, cumin and coriander seeds, chilli flakes, paprika and preserved lemon) which is then spread over the aubergine which is then baked, while the bulgar (boiled, dried and cracked wheat prepared very much like cous cous) salad brings with it the freshness of the herbs, sweetness of the sultanas and nuttiness of toasted almonds. A drizzle of cool greek yoghurt completes the dish.

What I like about this dish is that the many flavours don’t meld together into one simple flavour that defines the dish – you can taste almost each and every element, but they work beautifully together. It is also a texturally interesting dish with the silky soft aubergine complementing the crunch of the almonds and granularity of the bulgar.

A photograph of Aubergines with Chermoula, Bulgar and Yoghurt.
The finished product.

All in all, a successful first effort for the project. Looking forward to next week!

Technical Details

A photograph of the lighting setup used for the photograph of the ingredients
Lighting setup - Getting started

This week the lighting setup shot is for the photograph captioned "Getting started" as this was the most complex shot in terms of lighting.

The main light was a Canon 430 EX II bounced off the ceiling at 1/4th and 24mm. The main light created the specular highlight on the aubergine and the olives.

The key light was a Canon 580 EX II fired at 1/64th and 50mm directed at the aubergines from camera left. This light created the "catch light" on the aubergine and brought out the water droplets on it.

For the other photographs on this post, the Canon 430 EX II was bounced off the ceiling or off the wall close to the subject.

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