Fed up with your regular sandwich and looking to ring changes? Then look no further. These Lebanese sandwiches can be as simple or elaborate as you want. At their simplest, plain slices of aubergines can be grilled or cooked on a charcoal and stuffed inside hot flatbreads, sprinkled simply with coarsely ground salt and pepper. This is a more dressed-up version, which is a meal by itself.
Use any Middle Eastern flatbreads: the choice available in supermarkets and Middle Eastern delis these days is astonishing. I’m particularly fond of the sesame-studded variety. You can peel the aubergines if you like, as many Lebanese do. Peeled aubergines have an elusive, meat-like texture – though personally I’m happy to leave the peel on. Eat warm. Serves 4.
For the marinade:
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
For the sandwiches:
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
Approx 8 tablespoons olive oil
4 large pita breads, Middle Eastern flatbreads, or ordinary sliced bread
1 medium firm tomato, finely chopped
1 small red onion, trimmed, peeled and finely sliced
Small bunch mint leaves, torn
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
A few salad leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons red or yellow pepper, finely chopped (optional)
4 tablespoons diced or crumbled white cheese, any variety (optional)
1. Make the marinade by combining all the marinade ingredients and mixing well.
2. Slice the aubergine into 1-inch thick rounds. Working quickly, dip both sides of the aubergine slices in the marinade until you have used it all up. The liquid does not have to fully cover or soak the slices – just a touch is enough to give flavour.
3. Heat the oil on low to medium heat in a frying pan, and cook the marinated aubergine slices in batches of 2 or 3 at a time. The cooking temperature is important here: too high and you’ll burn the aubergine slices and they will remain undercooked from inside; too low and they will absorb the oil, become greasy, and take a long time to soften. The aubergines should be light golden-brown and cooked through (pierce some slices with a knife, just to make sure). Drain on kitchen paper.
4. Lightly grill (broil) the pita breads or any other bread that you are using.
5. Stuff the breads with aubergine slices, tomatoes, red onions, herbs, and seasoning. Add the salad leaves, chopped pepper and cheese, if using. If eating as a main meal, serve with salad and a bowl of thick, creamy yoghurt.