Two of my favourite ingredients in one dish: mango and eggplant (aubergine). An unusual combination of fruits, and one which you would not expect to complement each other so well. This recipe first caught my eye many years ago when I lived in Amsterdam. However, the mangoes which you buy in Amsterdam are less than ordinary: they were often under-ripe and lacking flavour. Some things just don’t cope with being picked early and transported thousands of kilometres from their point of origin. I stopped buying mangoes there after a few disappointing, homesick episodes. Instead, I would wait until I visited my parents back in Brisbane over summer before consuming multiple boxes in a few short weeks.
This recipe somehow slipped into the back of my mind, but recently when I was staring into the fridge at my pile of mangoes, and a couple of eggplants it resurfaced. I grabbed Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and there it was, waiting for me after all these years. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the sweet-sour mango combination, as mango is often sold by street vendors with salt and lime in Latin America. And eggplant – well, its the universal flavour absorber.
I have adapted the recipe slightly, to add more vegetables to freshen it up, an avocado for the requisite creaminess and also played around with the dressing to add some tamari to enhance the sweet, salty combination. This recipe serves 3-4 adults. Ottolenghi suggests adding some fried firm tofu to serve it as a main.
- 250g soba noodles
- 1 large eggplant (aubergine), diced into 2cm cubes
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into bite sized “trees”
- 1 large ripe mango, cut into 5mm strips
- 200g ripe grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 30g mint leaves, finely chopped
- 30g parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 large ripe avocado
- 2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons of tamari (or light soy sauce, if unavailable), for cooking
- Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
- 100mL brown rice vinegar
- 25g dark muscovado sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon tamari (or light soy sauce, if unavailable)
- Juice and zest of one large lime (or two smaller ones)
- Make the dressing by heating the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over low heat, for a minute or so until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from heat, add the garlic, chilli flakes, sesame oil and tamari and stir. Let cool for 5 minutes. Once cool, add the lime juice and zest and stir. Taste for seasoning or more lime, and then set aside.
- While the dressing is cooling, boil some salted water for the soba noodles in a large pot over medium heat. Add the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes (or as per directions on package). When the noodles are about a minute from being done and still firm to bite, drain the water and rinse under cold running water until they have cooled down. Leave to drain well.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the eggplant cubes in batches and fry. Once the oil is absorbed and the eggplant cubes are starting to stick to the pan, add a two tablespoons of tamari to the pan. Cook until the cubes are brown and cooked through (you may need to add another splash or two of water, but wait until all water is absorbed before removing from the heat). Leave the eggplant cubes to drain.
- In a large salad bowl or serving platter, add the dressing, the soba noodles, eggplant, mango, tomatoes and half of the herbs. Stir well and then set aside and leave to marinate for 30-60 minutes.
- While the salad is marinating, in the same pot used for the soba noodles, boil some more water over medium heat. Add the broccoli and cook for 2-3 minutes. The broccoli should be firm to the bite, and not be completely cooked through. Drain and run under cold water until the broccoli is cooled. Set aside to drain.
- After the salad has marinated, add the broccoli, avocado, other half of the herbs and mix well. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and then serve.