This week I tried out the recipe for Burnt Eggplant & Mograbieh Soup in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cook book, Jerusalem, page 141. To ring in the New Year, following several weeks of eating heavy, rich meals, I needed something to both satisfy the ever-increasing hunger of my pregnant belly, but that also shied away from the meat and heavy cholesterol that has been causing pain to my gallbladder (not an organ I wish to upset!)
The Burnt Eggplant Soup is simple fare in both ingredients and construction, but creates a hearty, almost spicy taste that I found unexpected, and delicious. I enjoy it most with a toasted flour tortilla and hummus, but it also pairs well when sprinkled with goat cheese and topped onto fresh sour dough bread.
I am personally a huge fan of eggplant. It was one of those ingredients that I hated as a kid, but after growing older and tasting it in Thai and Chinese cooking— soft, not chewy; sweet, not bitter— I began to order it regularly at restaurants, and learning to cook with it myself. I now consider it a staple in my kitchen, often taking the place of, or pairing with meats of all kinds. But I hadn’t yet made it as a soup, nor had I tried burning or even roasting it, despite some of my favorite to-order dishes (babaganoush) requiring this method.
Eggplant, aubergine, brinjal, or badinjan, is botanically a berry, and believed to have originated in India, where the greatest variety of cultivars grow naturally. It is relatively high in fiber (2.5g/cup— a typical large eggplant may yield 2 cups or more) and vitamins B6 and E, and contains as well the blue-red flavonoid anthocyanin (the purple color variety), which studies claim can lower blood pressure, and offer other heart-healthy benefits.
It is an ancient fruit, cultivated for 4000 years, with the earliest known written recordings of it in India going back 2000 years. Eventually, traveling Arabs brought eggplants both to Eastern China along the Silk Road and to Western Europe, indoctrinating this versatile nightshade into cuisines across multiple cultures. It only makes sense that eggplant makes a repeated appearance in Jerusalem, as well as YO’s other cook books, as it is itself indicative of where East meets West, the melting pot at the center of the world.
When making this dish, I got to try out my brand new Cuisinart Hand Blender, which made it all the easier to blend this dish in the pot I cooked it in, rather than transferring it to my blender. The hand blender did a great job at breaking up the tough, charred skin of the eggplant, which had seemed so impossibly stiff when I dropped it into the brothy soup.
Chef’s Tip: Blend well to avoid large chunks of blackened eggplant skin in the crevices of your teeth.
Perhaps it was the whole garlic cloves that gave a slight spice note to the soup, as no other ingredient is inherently spicy. It makes a complimentary undertone to the smokiness that is otherwise perfectly offset by the vivid lemon juice, and sweetness of the eggplant’s inner flesh, that keeps this soup from being too heavy on the palette.
On a chilly day, this soup is warming and filling, and a perfect transition from heavy holiday foods into the goals of the New Year! It’s nutritious to boot, giving me plenty of valuable fiber, not just for day to day living, but for the tiny baby boy growing inside me.
Have you made YO’s Burnt Eggplant and Mogbrieh Soup?
Tell me about it in the comments below, and share a photo if you have one. I’d love to know what alterations you’ve made, and what dishes you’ve paired it with!
Want the recipe?
Pick up a copy of YO’s Jerusalem here— its totally worth owning your own copy!
Click here to see other recipes I’ve made from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem.