Peter Gordon's Miso-baked aubergine, dates, feta, crispy buckwheat and tahini yoghurt
Serves 6 as a starter
Serve warm or at room temperature
The Japanese rely on miso for the taste sensation of umami it adds to dishes, and I have been cooking with this fermented salty and sweet paste for almost 40 years and find it indispensible in my pantry. The one I use most often is a pale golden type called shiromiso (white miso - although it's generally not white at all), which is made from rice, barley and soya beans. Some types of miso - and there are hundreds - contain wheat, so if you are gluten intolerant, read the label. If you can't get Medjool dates (which are gorgeously toffee-like and plump), then use dried dates, which you'll need to slice and soak in warm water for 5 minutes to plump up before draining.
3 tbsp miso paste (I used shiromiso)
3 tbsp mirin (or use 2 tbsp unrefined sugar + 1 tbsp water mixed together, or 2 tbsp runny honey)
2 tbsp sunflower oil (or light olive oil)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 aubergines, stems trimmed, each cut lengthways into six wedges
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp tahini paste
3 tbsp orange juice
85ml Greek-style plain yoghurt
? tsp finely grated orange zest
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls salad leaves (I used baby kale and watercress)
10 Medjool dates (175g), quartered lengthways and stone removed
200g feta, crumbled
2 tbsp crispy buckwheat (see below)
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (or pumpkin seeds)
Preheat the oven to 180?C/gas mark 4. Mix the miso paste with the mirin to loosen it, then stir in the sunflower and sesame oils. Brush the mixture thinly on the cut sides of the aubergine. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes. The aubergine is cooked when you can squeeze it with little resistance.
Mix the tahini to a slurry with the orange juice. Stir in the yoghurt, orange zest and 1 tbsp of the olive oil, then season with salt.
Toss the salad leaves with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and divide among your plates. Sit the aubergine on top, then scatter with the dates, feta and crispy buckwheat. Finally, drizzle over the tahini yoghurt, or serve it separately, and sprinkle with the crispy buckwheat and toasted pine nuts.
You can make this up to a week in advance and store it in an airtight container. The quantities given here will make more crispy buckwheat than you need for this dish, but once you've tasted how good it is, you'll be sprinkling it onto everything from a simple green salad to a beef stew. Whole buckwheat should be easy to find at a health food store, but as an alternative you could use toasted nuts or pumpkin seeds to give crunch to the dish.
50g whole buckwheat grains, rinsed and drained
about 300ml sunflower or other plain oil
Pour 500ml of hot (but not boiling) water over the buckwheat in a bowl and leave for 6 hours or overnight.
Drain into a sieve, then pat dry on a kitchen cloth.
Pour enough oil into a medium pan or frying pan, about 24cm diameter, to give you 2cm depth. Place over a medium heat and when the oil reaches 150?C, add the drained buckwheat.
Fry gently, stirring frequently, until the grains begin to stop sizzling and have turned golden brown. Drain in a heatproof sieve or small-holed colander, then lay it on baking paper, sprinkle with flaky salt and leave to cool. Once the oil has cooled you can strain and reuse it.
Extracted from Savour: Salads for all Seasons by Peter Gordon (Jacqui Small, approx €31.50), out now. Photographs by Lisa Linder. To order, visit quartoknows.com