Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for aubergine fesenjan

Woo your loved one with these roast aubergines in a rich, sweet-sour walnut-and-pomegranate sauce

Meera Sodha @meerasodha

The first thing I noticed about my now-husband Hugh when we met wasn’t his beautiful face or wit, but the hugely disconcerting red splatters over him and his kitchen’s walls. He’d been juicing pomegranates to make me this ancient Persian dish, in which walnuts and pomegranates combine to make a rich, tart and sweet sauce. These days, you can buy pomegranate molasses everywhere, which is what we use when we make this dish now to celebrate our relationship (and save the walls).

Aubergine fesenjan

This recipe is from my book Fresh India. You’ll need a food processor to grind the walnuts.

Prep 10 min
Cook 30-35 min
Serves 4 as a main

120g walnuts
4 medium aubergines (1.2 kg)
Rapeseed oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1½ tbsp brown rice syrup
¾ tsp chilli powder
tsp ground cinnamon
tbsp pomegranate molasses
250ml hot vegetable stock
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and line a large baking tray with lightly oiled foil. In a food processor, blitz the walnuts to a fine crumb.

Cut the aubergines into 5cm x 2cm batons, toss in a bowl with a little oil to coat, season lightly, then transfer to the prepared tray and roast for 25 minutes, until meltingly soft.

While the aubergines are roasting, make the fesenjan sauce. Put three tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the onions and fry for 12 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure they don’t catch.

Add the garlic, fry for three minutes, then stir in the brown rice syrup, chilli powder, cinnamon, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ground black pepper, the blitzed walnuts and the pomegranate molasses. Pour in the stock and cook for about eight minutes, until the sauce comes together.

When the aubergines are tender, pour the sauce into a serving dish. Arrange the aubergines on top, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and coriander, and serve with steamed basmati rice.

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