Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

25 Jun

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Throughout my 20’s I had infrequent contact with a self-indulgent and woeful lady who recurrently stressed to me that having children is the hardest thing in the world.  She meant raising them. She would stand over me as I slumped into the sofa, and she wafted an overstating finger above me whilst popping eyes glared at me, ‘it’s so hard’. I focused my eyes on the coarse hairs that grew under her chin and listened. I nodded as she told me how there is immense and overflowing love but there is no time even for a facemask or money left to buy clothes. I looked over at my husband and my expression clearly whispered, ‘I will still buy clothes’.

But look, I thought, people all over the world are popping them out. People in towns, cities and remote villages manage it and educated or uneducated, rich or poor, young or old…people all over the world and for as long as time has existed have been having children. So really, come on…

As my little one played with his friends in our garden and I looked at his sweaty little face reddening underneath layers of gritty sun cream. Underneath the wide forehead he gets from his daddy is a face that is so much like mine but that’s not the thing that sinks my heart and ties it in a knot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Tiny friends rushed around busily and purposefully with his toys as he watched. One snatched his ball as he watched, as kids often do at this age. My little one let her and decided to go and water some plants instead until another friend announced that he would do it instead. But that was OK and my two year old headed for the trampoline but alas his was bounced off. He quietly returned to me and tucked himself under my arm, ‘mumma I want my ball, it’s mine’. The bitter-sweet irony, as I could almost feel the sand under my feet on a school trip. I felt the pressure inside, even as a toddler as I was worried that my parents would be disappointed that I wasn’t as lively or vivacious as the other children or lacked the confidence to climb through the tunnels or jump off the bars as they were doing. I remember sitting near the teachers and watching the sand tumble through my feet and clearly feeling that somehow there was a waste here but I was too young to really understand the concept of money. I know I should talk to guests when they arrived at our home, when my parents told me to even more so, but I was too shy to make conversation and just willed them to turn their loud and animated interrogation off.

And here we are again. A nice boy that I made nice, to some degree, as his primary carer…but now, how to instil some personal robustness or survival instinct in him? At what point do my own experiences of the world become his perceptions? I don’t want my experiences to dirty his mind…and for someone who wouldn’t talk look at me now…I talk a lot, in front of crowds.

Here is to the bitter-sweet, hot and cool of life. A salad that tingles and zings with each mouthful of crunch from the beansprouts and alfalfa, heat from the chillies, silky smoky aubergine, nutty almond bites and sweet kecap manis. It’s loaded. I like loaded. Juicy orange and green tomatoes burst in the mouth…it’s all going on in this healthy plate. Life eh?

Ingredients to serve two as a main dish or four as a side dish

3 medium-large aubergines

4 good pinches of alfalfa sprouts

A couple of handfuls of almonds

100g beansprouts

An onion, thinly sliced

100g orange tomatoes, sliced

100g green tomatoes, sliced

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

The dressing

10 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp. kecap Manis

3 tbsp. sriracha sauce


  1. You will need to coat the aubergines in oil and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until they are shrivelling and soft enough to pierce. Allow them to cool before removing the skin and scooping out the pulp and mash it lightly on a large plate.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the onions, beansprouts and almonds and stir fry 3-4 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  3. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients and smoothing any lumps with a fork
  4. Layer the aubergine pulp, then on top add the tomatoes, beansprouts mixture, alfalfa and the drizzle over as much dressing as you like.
  5. Serve with flatbread and share (try).


20 Responses to “Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad”

  1. simplyvegetarian777 June 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    Deena, this is such an interesting salad. And a cheers to that bitter sweet, spicy and tangy, nutty and sometimes meh kinda experiences of our own life, which we want our kids to learn from us. I fret over it a lot too…being the wild one while growing up ;). But I guess they carve their own path and what we can do is to watch them with support and nourishment ;.)

    • Deena Kakaya June 25, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

      Thank you Sonal, the salad was really sense-popping.

      It’s challenging to stand and wAtch, but we are what we are and yes, a mother can simply nourish this xx

  2. Traditionally Modern Food June 25, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    So many flavors in one salad. Looks amazing

    • Deena Kakaya June 25, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

      Yes, so many sensations! I’m glad that you like it, thanks for taking the time to comment

  3. apsara June 26, 2014 at 4:29 am #

    Yes, this salad is really loaded! Soy sauce and sriracha, lovely combination in the dressing. 🙂

  4. Cheesy Biscuit June 26, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    That salad sounds so good! The textures and flavours – I bet it’s a sensation!

    • Deena Kakaya June 26, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      It is just that, a sensation and a few! Thank you so much x

  5. kellie@foodtoglow June 26, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    Deena, I was a lot like you. I often preferred my own company, and joining in and being jolly with others was sometimes a bit of a trial when all I wanted to do was read! Speaking of which, I read something reassuring last year that children like yours, exposed to others and to new experiences, but ‘experienced’ on their own terms (allowed to observe rather than pushed against natural inclination to participate) do just fine. They are the balance to the hot heads, the mavericks, the leap before they think-ers. Don’t worry about him. You turned out fine, I turned out fine. Cherish and nurture his caring nature just as you are doing. We need more people like him. Btw, it goes without saying that this recipe is lush!!

    • Deena Kakaya June 26, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Another thing we have in common huh Kellie? I was quite an introspective person till my teens and although now I love being with friends, family and meeting new people I would still choose a holiday over birthday party for my own birthday! You are right though, he will be just fine as we are.

      Glad you approve, can’t go wrong with a smoky Aubergine 😉 x

  6. Joanne June 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    It definitely is hard to raise kids…but also probably one of the most rewarding things you can do!

  7. Elaine @ foodbod June 26, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Lovely dish Deena xx and have no fear, you little man will learn personal robustness or survival instincts when he needs to whilst still being your lovely boy, I watch my son do it daily x

  8. recipesfromapantry June 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    Even the way you name your recipes is enough to give me sumptuous fullness. I am a big fan of crunch so digging the sesame seeds and almonds.

    • Deena Kakaya June 27, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Thanks Bintu, I’m a sesame fan too as I think they give a totally different accent to the whole dish x

  9. EA Stewart June 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    I absolutely love how you tied this amazing recipe in with your story of both yourself, and your boy growing up. Both are lovely! I agree with Kelly too-with a mama as cool as you, I think he’s going to turn out just fine 🙂

    • Deena Kakaya July 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

      You always say such lovely, kind, and encouraging things and I am so grateful. Thank you x

  10. Rhonda Sittig July 1, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    Just the title alone makes me want to try this dish!! It looks so packed with flavor!

    • Deena Kakaya July 1, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      Oh thank you! It is certainly a packed dish xx


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