Harry’s Aubergine with Feta and Parsley

For many years my friend Tessa and I have spent a week together on Lemnos in Greece but this year as Tessa lives in Sydney, we can’t. Every day we would be driven by Andreas to Thanos and the highlight would be lunch at Harry’s. Sadly Harry is no longer with us but his brother runs the taverna and the food is still exceptional. Harry was a terrific chef who taught me many dishes and rarely left the kitchen or his desk just outside it. One day he joined friends for lunch. I couldn’t make out what they were eating from my table but on the way out we stopped to chat. What intrigued me was the big, stunningly pale aubergine in the middle of the table. It was peeled and slashed lengthways so the buttery-soft flesh almost oozed under its cloak of grated feta, surrounded by Harry’s signature chopped parsley and swirl of fruity olive oil. It tasted garlicky and lemony, creamy and unimaginably delicious. It took days to wheedle the recipe out of Harry but it is ludicrously simple and I’ve cooked it many times and published the recipe in my Times Dinner Tonight column. It’s in my book The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales and I gave it to Simon Hopkinson who loved it so much, he cooked it on his TV series and published it in the book of the series (The Good Cook published by BBC Books). Harry served his with lamb shanks braised in the oven with potatoes and this wizard recipe adapts to virtually any sized and shaped aubergine and is interesting enough to serve on its own. It’s become a favourite home alone supper but makes a great starter. Both my sons make it regularly and so will you.

Serves 4

Prep: 10 min

Cook: 30 min

4 medium or 2 large aubergine, approx 800g in total

1 large garlic clove

1 lemon

5-6 tbsp fruity olive oil

1 tbsp very finely chopped flat leaf parsley

100g Greek feta cheese

     Heat the overhead grill. Run a small, sharp knife round the base of the stalk, just cutting through the skin. Make 4 evenly spaced shallow cuts down the length of the aubergine. Cook under the grill turning every 5-7 minutes or so, two or three times to cook evenly until the aubergine feels soft but before the skin hardens over sagging flesh. Finely chop the garlic. Transfer the aubergine to warmed white plates or platter and use a fork and knife to deftly lift and remove the skin. Slash the aubergine from stalk to the end without cutting it in half so it flops open like a book. Scatter garlic over the flesh, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice, splash of olive oil most of the parsley. Crumble or grate feta over the top. Garnish over and around with a little parsley and finish with a swirl of olive oil.