For me, a solid basis for friendship is a mutual love of condiments, pickles and sauces. Anyone who has an entire fridge shelf dedicated to these jars of joy will find a chum over here. Of all of them the world over, one of my favourites is the Indonesian satay sauce, because just a spoonful can make a person (me) happy to be alive. Usually, it’s used as an accompaniment for skewers of chargrilled meat, but here I’ve roasted it with aubergines cut into long fronds so that each and every bit gets coated. I hope you’ll believe me when I say it’s the sauce that makes it.
Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
3 large aubergines (1.2kg)
Rapeseed oil – I like Mr Organic
Fine sea salt
4 banana shallots (about 250g), peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 long red chillies, very finely chopped
2 sticks lemongrass, top-third discarded, the rest very finely chopped
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste
½ tbsp soft brown sugar
250g crunchy peanut butter – I like Manilife
Fresh herbs – a handful each of mint, coriander and dill, all chopped
Steamed rice and/or salad
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 and line a tray with a reusable baking mat.
Cut each aubergine into an aubergine “octopus”: keeping the top of the aubergine intact, slice down lengthways through the middle, then turn it 90 degrees and slice down lengthways again, to create four “legs”. Slice down each leg in half, to create eight legs.
Arrange the aubergines head to foot on the tray, drizzle over two tablespoons of oil and rub it into all the nooks and crannies. Do the same with a little salt, both inside and outside, then roast for 30 minutes until soft.
While the aubergines are roasting, make the sauce. Heat four tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat and, once it’s hot, add the shallots, garlic, chillies, lemongrass and ginger, and fry, stirring regularly, for 15-20 minutes, until soft and translucent. Stir in the soy, tamarind, sugar, three-quarters of a teaspoon of fine sea salt and peanut butter, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Slowly pour in 400ml water, mixing it in as you go, to create a thick sauce.
Once the aubergines have had their roasting time, pour the sauce all over the aubergines, making sure some of it goes inside all the cuts, then pop back in the oven for 10 minutes.
To serve, scatter over a handful of fried onions, sprinkle with the herbs and serve with freshly steamed rice, a salad or both.