Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

How’s everyone getting on? Not having the January blues I hope. It’s a bit cold and dreary back here in London and snow is  forecast, but I hope that this post will lift your heart and spirits and that you’ll see the world in colour once again. I thought you would be intrigued to see beautiful Jodhpur below. We recently spent a few days in this magnificent city, wandering the streets and soaking up the electric atmosphere.

I’ve been trying out some of the lovely recipes that I sampled in India in the comfort of my warm cosy kitchen this week. I’ll be sharing lots of them with you here on the blog over the coming weeks. Today I wanted to show you a wonderful aubergine dish – or eggplant as it is known to my US followers. It is similar to my baba ganoush, but with an Indian twist due to the spices.

Before I show you the recipe however, I wanted a moment to talk about chillies. I often get asked which chillies I use in my Indian cooking. When it comes to fresh green chillies I opt for the ones that are small and thin – but not the Thai birds eye, which are far hotter. The chillies I buy are slightly largely and longer, but still thin compared to the more bulbous ones.

In Kolkata I visited so many wonderful markets but the one above – Bow Bazaar – which is more of a wholesale fresh produce market, had a magnificent array of fresh produce. These chillies are similar to the ones I buy here in the UK.

So back to the recipe for this week. Please do give it a go and share the results on your social media outlets with the #chilliandmint and link me @chilliandmint.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

 

Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

serves 4-6 (served with some other dishes)

2 large aubergines

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced or chopped

1-2 fresh green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

4 medium sized tomatoes, cubed

 

  1. First you need to place the aubergines over a flame. If you have a gas hob then this works really well. If you do not you can place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the flesh softens, although it won’t have the same smokiness as over an open flame. If you are smoking it over a flame/gas hob it will take around 8 minutes, but you need to use tongs to turn it over so that it is ‘burnt’. Once it is soft and the sides have shrivelled remove from the plan and place on a plate to cool.
  2. Remove the charred skin from the aubergine and run under water to remove any excess skin. Place in a bowl and mash using a fork or potato masher.
  3. In a non-stick pan add the oil on a medium/low heat and add the cumin seeds. Allow them to fizzle in the pan for 15 seconds or so before adding the red onion, fresh chilli, garlic and ginger. Move around the pan to soften for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spice powders and salt and move around the pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes and aubergine and move around the pan for a further 3-5 minutes.
  6. Serve warm – you can add some fresh coriander on top or eat it as is.

You can serve this at room temperature, but personally I love it hot with a paratha or chapati.

 


Red Thai Tofu, Aubergine and Egg Curry

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been cooking loads of Indian food – recipe testing mainly. I  had been sent a fabulous hamper from Natco foods as part of the Curry4Change competition that I’m taking part in –  details on this will follow in June as YOU too can get involved.

I am now craving food from a different region and a rather delicious vegetarian Thai dish caught my attention recently, cooked by John Torode as part of one of the invention tests in the 2014 Masterchef series. I find the series completely addictive and a pleasure to watch. The invention test in particular is always rather exciting as it really demonstrates how much flair and knowledge of cooking the contestant really has. Basically the contestants get two boxes to chose from, one savoury and the other sweet – no prizes for guessing which I would always choose! After electing a box they have to create a dish using some of the ingredients within the box as well as a few staple ingredients that they are all given. Before the contestants dive in John has a go at choosing one of the boxes (away from the contestants), typically he too always chooses the savoury box. This time he created a red Thai aubergine, tofu, egg curry, which I thought looked delicious, spicy and relatively light – a dish that was beckoning me to cook.

Here is my version of the dish inspired from the John Tororde’s creation. I have a feeling that John may have included red peppers in his paste but I opted to not put them in – I leave it to you to decide.

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Red Thai Tofu, Aubergine and Egg Curry

The proportions below will allow you to cook this dish a few times – freeze the paste left over.

To make the paste

5cm fresh galangal

5cm fresh ginger

3 cloves of garlic

13 small shallots (half that if they are larger in size)

3 small piece kaffir lime peel

4 large dried red chilli, soak for 10 mins in warm water to soften

2 fresh small red chillies

2 lemongrass sticks

1 tsp shrimp paste

1. If you have a gas hob, simply place all the ingredients, aside for the shrimp paste, on a rack and place over the flame so that the ingredients char slightly. This will give the paste a lovely smokey flavour. I did exactly the same thing when I was in Vietnam and made Pho – see here.

2. If you do not have a gas hob, simply place them into a pan (do not add oil) and let them heat and char this way.

3. Once the ingredients have charred and cooled, place into a blender and add the shrimp paste. Blend until you can get it as smooth as you can.

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To make the curry itself

Serves 4

5 tbsp vegetable oil

800g firm tofu, cut into 3 cm cubes

4 tsp homemade curry paste

300g aubergine – if using baby aubergines cut into quarters, otherwise cut into 7x2cm matchsticks

400ml creamy coconut milk (1 tin)

4 eggs

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

3 pak choi

100ml water

1/2 lime, juice only

1. Firstly make sure the tofu is completely dry as it will then fry a lot better. I usually take the tofu out its packet a couple of hours before using and then place on kitchen roll so that it soaks up all the excess water.

2. Using a non-stick pan place a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan and when it is hot carefully add the tofu cubes. Fry on a low heat so that the tofu bronzes delicately. This should not take much more than 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile on a low heat, in a wok or karahi, add a couple more tablespoons of vegetable oil and add the thai paste. Stir around in the oil and add the aubergine and coat in the paste. You may find you need to add another tablespoon of oil at this stage as the aubergines do need quite a bit to cook.

4. As the aubergines begin to soften add the creamy coconut milk and the eggs in their shells. They will become hard boiled from cooking gently in the coconut milk.

5. Add the caste sugar and salt to taste.

6. Add the lime juice and then five minutes before serving add the pak choi and a little extra water. Remove the shells from the eggs and cut in half.

7. Serve in a bowl with a small bowl of rice on the side. John added roasted sesame seeds in his, which is a nice touch.

NB: My local Thai grocers said that they do not use fresh chillies in their red thai paste, but I decided to add a couple of help with the heat and colour.

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PS: I realise I’ve been cooking rather a lot of  dishes that include aubergine/eggplant lately. I do apologise if you can’t stand the vegetable. I don’t actively come up with recipes that include it but realise this is the third recipe that includes aubergines that I’ve cooked in the last month or so.  I promise there will be no aubergines for a while as you are probably being polite and are actually really sick of them ;o).


Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

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After the excessive eating around Easter time, which always happens when my family gets together for a few days, it was time to detox a little and by that I mean eat vegetable-only lunch and suppers. If you are a vegetarian, eating and cooking Indian food holds so many delicious possibilities, in fact it would be really easy to be a vegetarian in India as all the vegetable dishes taste so good and in many cases better than their meat and fish counterparts. Anyway after a few days of worthiness we did cook one dish, or perhaps I should call it a snack, that was perhaps a little less healthy – as they are fried – but are very addictive.

 

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They are incredibly moorish and the perfect accompaniment when eating rice/chapati and dal. The trick is to eat them within a couple of minutes of being cooked as they are not as tasty once they become cold. When eating Indian food with my family at home I tend to eat with my right hand – why? – well I find the food actually tastes better, although be careful not to over eat as it is easy to eat more this way ;o). Eating a thicker dal (not the overly soupy kind) and chapati with these fried spiced aubergines is one of lives pleasures. Have a go and you’ll know what I mean. They may not be pretty but they do taste rather good.

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To cook these little beauties follow these simple instructions:

 

Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

4-6 people depending on the size of your aubergine

1 aubergine

100g chickpea/gram flour

100ml water

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp poppy seeds/sesame seeds

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

1. To make the batter mix the flour and water together. You want to get the right consistency – not too watery and not too thick so add a little more water/flour as you see fit.

2. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, poppy seeds/sesame seeds and salt and mix into the batter.

3. Slice the aubergine into thin circles – approximately 1cm in diameter. If they are too thick they will not cook through properly.

4. Place the aubergine slices into the batter, a few at a time.

5. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan on a medium heat. When it is hot add a few of the aubergine slices. Fry on both sides for around 3 minutes per side.

6. Once bronzed place carefully on some kitchen roll and serve immediately with more salt as required.

 

 

 

 


Spiced Aubergine, Cavolo Nero and Mushroom Spring Rolls

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It’s the Easter holidays so my daughters have some wonderful leisured weeks ahead of them. They love to cook too so we decided to make these spiced aubergine, cavolo nero and mushroom spring rolls together. Rolling spring rolls is a great communal activity and actually rather calming and therapeutic. It is very satisfying to make a tightly rolled and neat spring roll – seriously you’ll know what I mean when you give this recipe a go.

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I hope that it gets a big thumbs up from all my vegetarian and vegan followers. The filling is deliciously tasty and even if you do like your meat I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how tasty these little spring rolls actually are.

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Once the filling has been prepared  and roasted the actually filling of the spring rolls is relatively quick. You can make them ahead of time and then leave them in the fridge until you are ready to fry them. Equally you could freeze them to use in the future – they are pretty versatile. IMG_8886

I adore cavolo nero and added to the aubergine, mushrooms and the spiced sauce, it makes for a very tasty filling.

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The trick to rolling spring rolls is to keep the rolls tight and well folded so that none of the filling escapes when frying. Don’t overfill or you may find the rolls cannot be rolled tight enough – I know it’s tempting but do restrain yourself ;o)

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Frying takes a couple of minutes and I tend to do a few at a time. Once they have bronzed, remove from the oil and place on some kitchen roll to cool and to soak up any excess fat. Diving in too quickly will burn your mouth, so let them rest for a short while before feasting. I like to dip them in tamarind chutney or some chilli sauce – the recipe for the former is noted below.

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Spiced Aubergine, Cavolo Nero and Mushroom Spring Rolls

Inspired by a similar recipe from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Denis Cotter

Makes 22 rolls

1 aubergine (weighing 300g), diced

200g cavolo nero (black kale), chopped  and stalks removed

100g mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp tomato puree

2 tsp light soy sauce

1/2 tsp caster sugar

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1/2 large red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 tbsp coriander seeds

4 cloves

pinch of fresh nutmeg

22 spring roll pastry sheets

vegetable/sunflower oil for frying

1. In a roasting tray layout the aubergine and mushrooms and scatter with a little olive oil. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, tossing at intervals so that all the ingredients cook and soften.

2. Whilst the aubergine and mushroom are roasting, heat a pan of boiling water and submerge the cavolo nero within it. Cook for 1 minute before straining under cold water and squeezing out the excess water from the cavolo nero. Place to one side on some kitchen paper to dry out thoroughly.

3. Mix the soy sauce, light soy sauce and caster sugar together and when the aubergine and mushrooms are sufficiently cooked transfer them to a bowl and mix in the sauce using a spoon.

4. Using a spice mix or pestle and mortar grind the coriander seeds and cloves together and add the nutmeg. Transfer these and the sliced spring onions and finely sliced red chilli also to the bowl along with the now dry cavolo nero.

5. Lay out a spring role pastry sheet and using your finger or a brush lightly wet the sides of the square. Add a tablespoonful of the aubergine, mushroom and cavolo nero mix towards the bottom of the sheet and then fold over tightly once and then fold in both ends   so that the roll is tightly packaged and then roll until the sheet has been used up. The water that you place on the end will sufficiently hold the spring roll together when cooking.

6. Once all the filling has been used up, heat a deep pan with sunflower/vegetable oil and when it is hot (drop a pinch of flour into it and if it fizzles it is ready) add a couple of the spring rolls at a time. They should take around 2 minutes each to cook. Once they have lightly bronzed place on a plate with kitchen roll to soak up any excess oil.

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Tamarind Chutney

Makes half a ramekin full

1 tsp roasted cumin seeds, ground

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp tamarind concentrate

500ml boiling water

45g palm sugar

1 tsp salt

1. In a pan dry roast the cumin seeds for 30 seconds so that the aromas are released. Place in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a powder.

2. In a deep pan add the oil and when it is hot add the ground cumin and move around the pan.

3. Add the tamarind concentrate and boiling water and stir so that the concentrate is dissolved. Keep on a medium heat.

3. Add the palm sugar and salt and allow to dissolve into the liquid.

4. Simmer for 25 minutes by which time the liquid will have thickened, although it will still be relatively runny. As it cools it will begin to harden.

5. Store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to two weeks if not consuming immediately.


Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

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Have you ever been a little ambivalent about aubergine/eggplant? On the one hand loving their smooth, shiny plum coloured exterior but never really in raptures about the taste. Well my other half, Mr B, tended to fall into this category, so a while ago I set out to prove him wrong.

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After mutterings of ‘you know aubergine is my least favourite vegetable, I prefer greens’, he tasted one mouthful and that completely shut him up. Murmurs of approval were given between mouthfuls and a 9/10 score (yes we regularly mark our food – is that unusual?). RESULT. Surprisingly my eldest child also adored it, surprising as it does have a fair amount of chilli in it! If you don’t like chilli, but like spice, just reduce or take out the chilli in the recipe below.

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The combination of aubergine, peanuts and sesame seeds works ridiculously well together so much so that you will have to restrain yourself from wanting to guzzle up the whole dish. Combine that with a spiced onion and tomato sauce and you have yourself a winning dish.  So put your assumptions to one side for a moment and give this recipe a whirl and I can assure you you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  I couldn’t resist the bijou aubergines on sale at my local market but a regular sized aubergine will work equally well. Just slice the aubergine into chunky chip sized pieces, keeping the skin on of course.

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Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

Adapted from Sanjay Thumma’s Eggplant Tomato Curry

450g baby aubergine/eggplant (normal size is fine too), sliced lengthways or chunky chip sized if using a regular aubergine

cooking oil, enough to deep fry the aubergine

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

1 small green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

5 curry leaves (fresh or dried)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp of garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

1 white onion, finely chopped

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp salted peanuts

1 tbsp sesame seeds

150ml water

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. If using baby aubergine/eggplant slice lengthways removing the stalk. If using a regular sized aubergine slice into chunky chip sized, again removing the stalk. Once sliced, immediately place in a pan of boiling oil to sizzle away and bronze. This should take no longer than ten minutes.

2. Remove the aubergine with a straining spoon and place on some kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next steps.

3. In a new large pan add the olive oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seeds. They will begin to pop immediately so move them gently around the pan for 15 seconds before adding the dried red chilli, fresh small green chilli (optional), curry leaves (fresh or dried), turmeric, garlic, ginger paste and onion. Continue to cook on a medium heat for around 7 minutes by which time the onion should have nicely softened, but not bronzed.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander, cumin and Kashmiri chilli powder and simmer for a further 5 minutes, by which time the tomatoes will have totally softened and blended into the sauce. Return the aubergines to the pan and fold gently into the sauce.

5. In a small pan dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds for a couple of minutes, making sure to constantly move them around the pan so that the heat is evenly distributed and they do not burn. They will begin to bronze at which point you need to remove them from the pan.

6. Using a spice grinder (definitely one of my most useful items I own in my kitchen) – this is the one I use – see here – grind the peanuts and sesame seeds together to form a paste.

7. Add the peanut sesame paste to the pan and stir into the curry, adding more water if necessary. As I used salted peanuts I only needed to add a little more salt. Simmer for a few minutes and serve. If cooking ahead and leaving to rest you will have to add a little more water when heating up.

Serve with rice or Indian bread and you have yourself a vegetarian – in fact vegan – treat. Try it and leave a comment below.

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Baba Ganoush – it definitely has a ring to it!

I have to admit that it was initially the name of this wonderfully smokey aubergine (eggplant) dip/appetizer that caught my attention. I know you probably think I’m mad and just another one of those English eccentrics, but seriously saying ‘Baba Ganoush’ out loud has a wonderful ring to it – give it a try and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll want to keep saying it again and again, I promise you it’s rather addictive sounding. Coupled with the smokey undertones of this pureed roasted aubergine with tahini (sesame paste), lemon, garlic and olive oil and you have a perfect little dish. The name itself means ‘father pampered or spoiled’ in other words, it’s a dish that will please and delight and give great joy to those who feast upon it. It will bring smiles, rest assured!

It is common place in Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, all the Arab countries and North Africa, with each region taking their own spin on the  added extra ingredients. For example, in Palestine, yoghurt is often added to the mix, whilst in Lebanon pomegranate juice is sometimes added instead of the tahini and in Iran tomatoes, onion and turmeric is added. Some people like it to add cumin but I find that the perfect dish is one that is not too over complicated with different ingredients. The simplicity of it adds to it’s appeal.

We ate it on a number of occasions this summer in Turkey, cooked outside on an open fire. It tasted delicious and I made a note to myself there and then to share this recipe with you all. My recipe is very similar tasting to the one that I used to buy in those Middle Eastern supper markets around the Edgware Road in London. I acquired a taste for that style of Baba Ganoush, so when I started making my own homemade version the one I wanted to replicate was the one I used to eat in my youth – or perhaps I ought to say  early 20’s!

There is no hard and fast rule to making Baba Ganoush, so experiment and get creative and see which type really works for you. What I will say however, is that if you like it smokey – which is kind of the point of the dish – it is important to really burn the outside of the aubergine. Using tongs I roast them initially over a gas flame on my hob before putting them in the oven for 25 mins to soften them completely. If you don’t have a gas flame, placing them under a high grill so that the skins blacken and burn slightly, will have a similar smokey effect, but don’t forget to turn them regularly if you do this!

Baba Ganoush

Serves 4

3 large aubergine/eggplant

3 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)

juice of one and a half lemons

1 large tsp rock salt (or to taste)

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch chilli powder

1 pinch sweet paprika

1 small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees. Using tongs hold the aubergine over a gas flame so as to burn and blacken the skin. The more the skin burns the more smokey your Baba Ganoush will be. The skin should be sufficiently burned from between 6-10 minutes.

2. Place the aubergines on a baking tray and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until the aubergine is completely soft.

3. Leave to cool and then peal off the aubergine skin and discard the skin.

4. In a blender add the smoked aubergine flesh, tahini, lemon juice, chilli powder, salt and  half the olive oil and blend to a pulp. Taste and add more lemon juice/tahini/salt if required.

5. Place in a dish and add a pinch of sweet paprika, flat leaf parsley and the remaining olive oil and serve with toasted pitta bread, chapati or middle eastern bread.

It stores well in the fridge for a few days so great to cook in advance.

As you gently singe the skin of the aubergine the lovely smokey smells will come through.

After 25 minutes in the oven the aubergines will be very soft. Leave to cool before peeling off the skin, which should come away really easily. If they are at all hard in places, leave to cook for a further 5 minutes before checking again with a sharp knife. If the knife easily pierces the skin and goes through the aubergine then it is ready.

Into the blender goes the smoked and oven baked flesh of the aubergine, tahini, garlic, pinch of chilli powder, lemon juice, salt and olive oil.

I couldn’t resist a photo of my recent antique find – a c.1860 French steel and rosewood handle herb chopper, with the chopped flat leaf parsley ready to go on the top of the baba ganoush.


Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango – it’s totally addictive BEWARE!

It’s always a joy cooking for a foodie friend who eats everything and shares a similar enthusiasm for exciting flavours, textures and foods. Said friend is off to pastures new in California so I wanted to prepare a simple and yet interesting lunch that he may not have tried before, but that he was hopefully going to remember fondly.

In the last couple of years my love for tofu has grown exponentially, on average I would say I eat it once a week as a main meal. One of my all time favourite recipes – Ma Po Tofu – I  sometimes cook without the pork mince and add loads of spinach to compliment the tofu instead. I would really recommend you give this dish a go if you haven’t already, it’s absolutely superb.

Another dish using tofu, which I discovered more recently, is the one that I want to share with you today. It’s a perfect spring/summer dish bursting with colour and if the truth be told, totally addictive. Between the two of us we almost saw off a portion which Yotam Ottolenghi says ‘serves 6’. I know, I know, it  makes us sound rather piggy. Look we were hungry and it is so delicious I bet you too would have seconds or maybe thirds ;o). I think that as a main dish it’s serving is better suited to 4 than 6, unless your guests have sparrow appetites that is!

 Don’t be shy, once you’ve cooked it do write a comment below to let me know how you got on and  that you too had seconds/thirds.

Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango

Adapted  from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4-6

120 ml rice vinegar

40g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 lime, zest and juice

300ml sunflower oil

2 aubergines, cut into 1cm dice

396g firm tofu, cut into small cubes (a little more or less is fine so don’t worry about getting exact amount)

250g soba noodles

2 ripe mangoes, cut into strips or dice

small handful of Thai sweet basil, chopped

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1. To prepare the dressing warm the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan for a minute so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the chilli, garlic and sesame oil and leave to cool. Once it is cool add the lime juice and zest.

2. In a frying pan heat up  half the sunflower oil and gently fry the aubergine in batches. To save time I cooked the aubergine in two frying pans cooking simultaneously. When they have bronzed place on kitchen paper to cool.

3. Using the remaining sunflower oil (if necessary – you may have enough left from cooking the aubergine!) gently heat up the tofu and cook until it has a crispy light brown appearance. This should take 6-8 minutes. Similar to the aubergine place on some kitchen paper to soak up some of the oil.

4. Heat a pan of boiling salted water and cook the soba noodles for around 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water, shaking off as much excess water as possible. Place on a tea towel to dry.

5. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, herbs (save a few to scatter on top when serving),  red onion and tofu. Transfer to another serving plate/dish. You can eat immediately or set aside for a couple of hours.

The dressing resting whilst I prepare the rest of the ingredients (above)

The final result (below)

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