When my son turned 16, a few of us met up in a Japanese restaurant in Soho to celebrate. The group included his best friend whom he has known since they were 6 years old and who rather sweetly, follows this blog on Facebook! Jake loves sushi and will devour plates of the otoro (slices of tuna belly) whenever he gets the chance. I prefer salmon sashimi and love it “spicy” but, I digress. Not everyone enjoys raw fish with the unbridled enthusiasm shown by my son, so we decided on a restaurant based on the traditional Japanese Izakaya or food centred around grilled skewers plus sides and salads. And it is all about the grill at Bincho Yakitori – the air is thick with the mouth-watering smell off the brazier and the charming staff in this sleek, modern restaurant are terribly helpful even as they cope with a midweek restaurant full of clamouring diners. The grilled skewers of meat and fish were gorgeous but the knockout dish for me was the Nasu Miso Dengaku or Japanese Aubergine with Sweet Miso. Those skinny pale purple aubergines are sliced in half, scored, grilled, smeared with THE most delicious miso paste and grilled again – we ordered a few rounds of those!
Spurred on by the unopened jar of Miso paste in my pantry and a pot of homemade harissa paste from a local deli, this is my take on them – to be honest, they were nothing like them but are delicious nonetheless. Meltingly savoury with a little kick from the harissa paste, it makes a nice change from Parmigiana!! Serve them with a little pile of steamed rice and a salad with a gingery, sesame seed oil dressing. You can have one or two slices as a light starter or double up on the quantities and have them as a main course perhaps with some teriyaki chicken or salmon…
Roast Aubergine with Miso & Harissa
- 1 large firm and glossy aubergine
- Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp miso paste
- 1 tsp harissa (or to suit your palate)
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp rice vinegar (it’s a little sweeter than normal)
- Coriander leaves, sesame seeds and sliced red chilies to garnish – optional
- Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.
- Slice the aubergine lengthways into ½ cm slices. I got 7 slices out of mine.
- Brush one side of each slice with a little olive oil and place oiled side down on a baking tray.
- Mix the miso, harissa, honey and rice vinegar to combine.
- Divide the miso mixture between the aubergine slices and using the back of a spoon, spread over each slice to cover with the paste.
- Roast for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets and how thick/thin you have sliced the aubergine. The flesh should be very soft – almost melting.
- Garnish with coriander leaves, sesame seeds and flecks of chill and serve warm with some rice and a green salad, dressed with a little sesame oil, grated ginger and rice vinegar.