A healthy aubergine risotto recipe with roasted aubergine purée, caramelised artichokes and Greek yoghurt. A creamy, tasty vegetarian dinner.
A further trip to the multi-cultural delight that is Tooting in south-west London yielded yet another variety of aubergines, these even more beautiful that the last (see what I made with the other variety here). What a delight they were to photograph!
I absolutely love aubergine (eggplant for my US readers!) and am always looking for new ways to employ it. Having previously perfected an extremely delicious Roasted aubergine dip which uses aubergine purée, garlic, lemon and yoghurt to create a truly remarkable flavour experience, I wondered if these flavours could also be employed in a risotto. Aubergine risotto is not something I have come across before, but what could go very wrong with the addition of rice and perhaps a little cheese?
As I often do when creating a new dish, I had a look at my favourite flavour pairing resource for some ideas (see my post on this website and resource here). I learned that aubergine pairs particularly well with Gruyère and artichoke, so I decided to incorporate these delectable ingredients into the risotto.
As with my Roasted aubergine dip, the aubergine purée adds a wonderfully delicate, earthy flavour to the risotto, but it will take a very discerning palate to pick out exactly what it is. This makes it great for sneaking nutritious vegetables into the diet of reluctant eaters! I have had many an aubergine-hater look at me in amazement when I tell them what they are actually eating! You can use the recipes I have posted to employ this versatile purée, or add it to any number of different dishes. I often roast a load of aubergines at once and keep them in little bags in the freezer for future use.
Instead of using butter to finish the risotto as is typical, I used thick Turkish yoghurt instead. This was partly because I wanted to mirror some of the flavours in my Roasted aubergine dip, but also in an attempt to make a healthier, lighter version of risotto. This variation was a resounding success, adding a bright, tangy creaminess – I think it will be the way I finish all my risotto in the future.
As Gruyère has a particular affinity with aubergines, if you have it to hand I suggest that you use it here instead of Parmesan, but if the latter is all you have on hand (as I did), by all means use that instead.
Incidentally, I just happened to be drinking a lightly sweet Grenache rosé wine when I was making the risotto and I thought they went together quite well (although the red wine in the picture is a better colour match!). Otherwise, a safe bet is to match the food with the white wine you used to make it – another reason to always use a drinkable wine for cooking.
I have been told by one or two Italians that you should only ever stir risotto clockwise. This sounds like complete and utter nonsense to me, but does anyone have a more scientific take on this? I have always been curious as to whether there can be any truth to it.
Aubergine risotto with artichokes
- 2 large aubergines or similar
- 4 baby artichokes prepared and halved as described here
- 2 heaped teaspoons vegetable stock paste or similar
- 50 g butter
- 5 cloves garlic very thinly sliced
- 500 g arborio rice or similar
- 150 ml drinkable dry white wine
- 2 lightly heaped tablespoons full-fat Greek yoghurt
- 50 g Gruyère or vegetarian 'Parmesan'
- fresh herbs I used thyme to garnish
Prick the aubergines all over and roast 200c for about an hour. Leave to cool a little, then split down the length and scrape out the flesh. Discard the skin. Purée the flesh (I used an immersion blender) and season to taste - make sure you use enough salt to really bring out the flavour of the aubergine. Set aside.
Parboil the artichokes in 1.5 litres water until just tender. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside. Do not throw away the water - it will become the basis of your stock.
Add the stock paste to the water and keep warm over a low heat.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. When melted, add the garlic and cook gently until the garlic starts to take on some colour and is lightly caramelised - about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir thoroughly to coat the grains in the butter. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is translucent other than for a white dot in the middle of each grain - about another 5 minutes.
Add the white wine to the rice and stir until it is almost completely absorbed.
Start adding the stock. Add a ladle or two at a time and stir frequently until all the stock is absorbed. Repeat until all the stock has been used and the rice is tender with no crunch in the middle. You may need a little more boiling water or a little less of the stock depending on your rice and how much liquid evaporates during the cooking process.
When the rice is ready turn off the heat and stir in the yoghurt making sure it is thoroughly mixed in.
Taste and season the risotto - this is one of the most important steps in the recipe. I have tasted many a risotto transformed from a tasteless mush into a gorgeous savoury delight just by correcting the seasoning.
Stir through the aubergine purée and the Gruyère or Parmesan. Cover the risotto and set aside to rest while you prepare the artichokes.
To caramelise the artichokes, melt a small knob of butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the artichokes cut side down and cover the pan. Cook gently until the cut sides are golden brown and the rest of the artichoke is warmed through - about 5 minutes.
To serve, divide the risotto between four plates, top with two artichoke halves and sprinkle with fresh herbs.