Aubergine and Couscous Mould with Pepper Sauce

An extravaganza for vegetarians, Richard Phillips' Mediterranean aubergine mould pulls out all the stops in favour of dressy dining
By Richard Phillips
Aubergine and Couscous Mould with Pepper Sauce
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes plus standing time
  • Effort: medium

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 5 tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 4 aubergines
  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 150 ml sherry vinegar
  • 250 ml quick-cook couscous
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3-4 sprigs mint
  • 10 black olives, pitted, diced
  • 50 g flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 50 g toasted pine kernels
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • flat leaf parsley, to serve

For the sauce

  • 75 g butter
  • 5 red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprigs thyme
  • 100 ml vegetable stock
  • sprigs parsley, for garnishing

Method

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Plunge the tomatoes into the water and leave for 12-15 seconds before draining. Peel away the skin, halve the tomatoes and dice the flesh. Leave on one side.

2. Preheat a grill until very hot. Place the peppers under the grill and cook until the skin chars, turning frequently. This should take about 10 minutes. Pop the peppers into a plastic bag and secure with a rubber band. Leave on one side for 15 minutes before opening the bag, peeling off the skin and discarding the seeds. Dice the pepper flesh and set aside.

3. Cut a 2.5cm slice from the thin end of the aubergines. Slice the remaining aubergines, along their length, into thin strips.

4. Heat about 70 ml of the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the 4 end pieces of the aubergines for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.

5. Turn the aubergine ends over and continue frying for another 1-2 minutes.

6. Add the thin aubergine strips and cook briskly for a further 30-40 seconds. Pour in the sherry vinegar and cook down until it becomes syrupy and glaze-like. Leave on one side.

7. Heat 70ml of the remaining olive oil in a separate pan, and fry the couscous until golden brown, stirring all the time.

8. While the couscous is frying, heat the vegetable stock with the star anise, orange and lemon rind, juices and mint sprigs. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

9. Once the couscous is golden brown, transfer to a bowl. Pour the spiced stock through a sieve, over the couscous, and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on one side to stand for 20 minutes - until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked.

10. Using a fork, fluff-up the couscous and add the diced tomatoes, black olives, red and yellow peppers, parsley, pine nuts and seasoning. Stir to combine.

11. Lightly oil and line 4 x 5-7cm diameter dariole moulds (or medium-sized teacups) with the fried lengths of aubergine strips - make sure that every piece overlaps the next one and overhangs the lip of each mould. Tightly pack-in the couscous mixture, and fill to about 2cm from the top of the moulds.

12. Cover the couscous with the fried, thick aubergine pieces and fold over any loose aubergine strips. Wrap the moulds in plastic wrap and set aside. You can prepare these moulds well in advance - keep them in the fridge until you need them.

13. For the sauce; melt 1 teaspoon of the butter in a saucepan and tip in the chopped peppers and sliced shallots. Cover, and cook, without browning, until softened - about 10 minutes.

14. Add the bay leaf and thyme and pour over the stock. Bring to a boil, before simmering the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Leave on one side to cool slightly.

15. Pour the contents of the pan into a food processor and blend to a smooth sauce. Push through a fine sieve and return the sauce to the pan. Reheat, adding the remaining butter, a little at a time. This helps give a glossy shine and richness to the finished sauce.

16. Fill the bottom container of a steamer with water and bring to simmering point. Top with the steamer basket and add the couscous moulds - don't remove the plastic wrapping yet.

17. Cover, and steam for 12-15 minutes, until heated through. Remove the plastic wrap, and turn the moulds out onto serving plates. Drizzle a little of the sauce over and around each one and garnish with parsley sprigs before serving.

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