What is chermoula? I hear you ask. Until recently I hadn’t heard of it either, but chermoula is spicy, aromatic North African dip or marinade that is traditionally served with fish but can also be used with chicken, vegetables or in stirred into couscous. I happened across it while looking for interesting veggie alternatives for a BBQ last weekend. The chermoula caught my attention firstly for its unusual name – cher-mou-la and secondly for its wonderful mix of Moroccan sounding ingredients such as sweet paprika, mint, cumin and harissa paste that sounded perfect for a hot summers day.
I found a recipe that suggested serving the chermoula as an accompaniment to grilled aubergine and decided sliced aubergines would be ideal for putting on the Barbeque. The chermoula looks a little like a pesto, the spices and herbs mingling together in a golden saffron oil. Before barbequing, I also brushed the aubergine slices with some of the smoky oil that was produced when making the chermoula which helped glaze them a lovely rustic orange colour.
The aubergine slices were served warm with extra chermoula drizzled on top. The slightly smoky flavour from the charred aubergine complemented the spicy, African flavours of the sauce. There was a tingling warmth from the harissa but it was also very fragrant thanks to the herbs and spices. I’m told by other family members it goes very well with chicken and sausages too. I had some of the leftovers the following day and it seemed to have increased in spiciness and had a fuller rounded flavour, so I think making the sauce a few hours or the day before you need it would be good. You can adjust the level of spiciness you want by the strength of the harissa you use – I find some are hotter than others.
Barbequed Aubergine with Chermoula
(Recipe adapted from Delicious Magazine)
2 large aubergines
3 tsp salt
For the chermoula
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp sweet paprika
Small pinch saffron strands
2 tsp harissa paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
20g fresh coriander
20g fresh mint
150ml olive oil
Cut the aubergines lengthways into 1cm thick slices. Sprinkle them with the salt and lay them in a colander to drain away any bitter juices. Leave for 40-60 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the chermoula. Finely grate the garlic into a pestle and mortar and add the cumin, ground coriander, paprika and saffron strands.
Add a little oil and grind everything together to make a thick paste. Finely chop the herbs and add to the pestle along with the harissa and lemon juice.
Crush everything together well, while drizzling in the oil to create a sauce with a pesto-like consistency.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover until required.
When the aubergines have drained, rinse them under the tap to remove any excess salt and pat them dry. Arrange them on a tray and brush both sides with some of the chermoula. Add more oil to the sauce if needed.
Cook on the BBQ for 3-4 minutes each side, until soft and tender and grill lines are apparent on the slices. You could also use a grill pan if you don’t want to BBQ.
Keep warm in the oven until required. Serve with extra chermoula and other usual barbeque meal accompaniments.
Serves 6 - 8