René and I are so lucky to have my mother living with us; she helps out in more ways than I can count! She would be the first to admit, however, that kitchen cleanup is not her strong suit, which is how this dish came to be. I was frying some bread in a pan I thought had been cleaned (it was back in the cupboard), and I realised the toasts were picking up the yellow colour of turmeric from the last dish that had been cooked in it. Fortunately, I loved both the look and the flavour, so all’s well that ends well. This is a great example of how you can take a base recipe and pump up the flavour by layering additional seasonings onto the individual components. For the topping, instead of simple, uncooked tomatoes, I’ve paired the bread with a savoury aubergine mash that benefits from lots and lots of chopped fresh herbs. If you grow lovage in your garden, as so many of us in Denmark do, you’ll find that its subtle cucumber flavour is fantastic with the aubergine, but use whatever tender green herbs you can get readily.
TUMERIC FRIED BREAD WITH HERBED AUBERGINE
AUBERGINE AND HERBS:
Aubergine 2 large, about 1.5 kg (3 lb)
Fine sea salt ½ teaspoon, plus extra to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil 300 ml (½ pint), as needed
Fresh coriander sprigs 20
Fresh dill sprigs 20
Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs 20
Fresh lovage leaves 20 large (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty rustic bread, such as ciabatta 6 slices 12-mm (½-inch) thick
Salted butter 60 g (2 oz)
Ground turmeric ½ teaspoon
1. Prepare the aubergines: Cut the aubergines into 2-cm (.-inch) dice. Put in a colander and toss with about 1 teaspoon of salt. Let drain for 30 to 60 minutes. Rinse well, drain briefly, and spread onto tea towels to pat dry.
2. Heat 120 ml (4 fl oz) of the oil in a deep pan over moderately high heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. Add a quarter of the aubergine to the pan and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Push the browned aubergine to one side of the pan. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and when it’s hot, add another quarter of the cubed aubergine. Continue cutting and cooking the aubergine, letting each batch brown for 2 minutes and adding more oil as needed.
3. Cover the pan with the lid askew. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the aubergine is a tender, chunky mash, about 15 minutes.
4. Coarsely chop the coriander, dill, parsley and lovage leaves, if using. (You can include some of the tender stems near the leaves.) Reserve 2 tablespoons of the chopped herbs for garnish and stir the remaining herbs into the aubergine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
5. Make the fried bread: Line a baking sheet with kitchen towels. Cut the biggest bread slices into two or three pieces. Line up a double thickness of kitchen towels on the work surface near the hob. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the butter starts bubbling, stir in the turmeric. Add the bread and fry until the underside is golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn the bread and brown on the second side for another 1 minute. Drain on kitchen towels in a single layer; don’t stack them or you will find that they will lose their crispness. Don’t be misled by the turmeric, which will turn the bread slices golden yellow; keep cooking until they are a nicely toasted brown.
6. Pile the bread slices on a plate. Mound the aubergine in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the reserved herbs.