Smoky aubergine salad with runny duck eggs
4 Thai purple aubergines or regular aubergines
2 duck eggs splash olive oil
10g jasmine rice
10g mint, torn
10g coriander, torn
10g Thai shallots or banana shallots, thinly sliced
For the pickle
2tbsp caster sugar
½tsp table salt
50ml distilled white vinegar ¼ cucumber, thinly sliced
For the dressing
juice 5 limes juice 1 mandarin (or clementine) 3tsp fish sauce or soy sauce ½tsp chilli powder
50g caster sugar
3tsp tamarind water
steamed jasmine rice
1tsp toasted sesame seeds
pestle and mortar or spice grinder
Light the barbecue and place the whole aubergines directly on the hot coals, or near the hottest part of the grill if you’re using a gas barbecue. Turn them over frequently, ensuring the heat from the coals is distributed evenly. The aubergines are ready when soft to the touch, with charred, blistered skins. When cool enough to handle, peel off
the skin. (If you're not using a barbecue, crank the oven right up to full blast and bake the aubergines until the skins are charred and the flesh soft – this takes 20-25 minutes).
Meanwhile, cook the duck eggs for 6-7 minutes on a rolling boil in salted water, then transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water with a splash of olive oil. If you peel the eggs in the water, the oil gets between the shell and flesh, making them easier to peel.
Put the rice in a dry frying pan and lightly toast on a medium heat, shaking the pan until golden brown. Pound the rice into a powder in a pestle and mortar, or use a spice grinder. Be sure to grind it to a powder; the salad will be too crunchy if grains are too coarse. Set aside until serving.
Next, make the pickle. In a medium pan, gently heat the sugar, salt and vinegar with
50ml cold water until the sugar has dissolved. Keep stirring so the sugar dissolves without heating the water too much. Remove from the heat, add the cucumber, then chill.
To make the dressing, mix the juices, fish sauce, chilli powder, sugar and tamarind water in a bowl. Adjust the dressing to taste: it should be sweet, salty, sour and hot, with an edge towards salt and citrus. When you're happy with the flavour, add the aubergines, mint, coriander, shallots and pickled cucumber (strain any juices first) to the bowl. Gently fold together, leaving the aubergines whole.
Arrange the aubergines on a serving plate and place the duck eggs on top. Using the tip of a knife, pierce a hole in the eggs and break them open with your fingers, releasing the runny yolks so they ooze into the salad.
Sprinkle the salad with the rice and sesame seeds and add a tiny pinch of salt onto the runny egg yolks as a surprise burst of flavour. Serve with steamed jasmine rice for an extra fill.