700g aubergines (about three medium-sized)
1 tsp. neutral oil (e.g. groundnut, sunflower, etc.)
1 1/2 tbsp. chilli bean paste, or 2 small red chillis, sliced into rings
2-inch piece finely grated/crushed/finely minced ginger root
5 large garlic cloves, crushed
150ml vegetable) stock
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. cornflour/potato flour mixed with 1 tbsp. cold water
1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 spring onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
Firstly cook the aubergine. You can either cook them in the oven, or steam them.
If you prefer to oven cook it, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200c / 400f. Wrap the aubergines loosely in foil (individually or together), place on a metal tray and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully open the foil out (beware of steam) and cook for a further 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the size of the aubergines you’ve used) until just tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle, and then quarter lengthwise and cut into slices about 1cm thick.
If you would like to steam your aubergines, cut the top off, quarter them lengthwise, then cut into slices approximately 1cm thick. Arrange in a steamer tray randomly, with plenty of space in between for the steam to get through, sprinkle over a pinch of salt and steam over boiling water for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, until tender (if you find they’ve cooked slightly unevenly, don’t worry as you’ll be cooking them through a little more in a wok in the sauce).
Take a good, non-stick wok and make sure you have some recently boiled water to hand, in case you need to add it near the end. Put over a medium high heat, add the oil, and then add the chilli bean paste (or chopped fresh or salted chillies) and cook for about 15 to 20 seconds to release the flavour into the oil, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 20 to 30 seconds until fragrant, being careful nothing catches or burns. Add the stock, sugar and soy sauce and give a quick stir, then add the cooked aubergine slices and simmer for about five minutes or so (or until cooked through to your liking), to allow them to absorb the flavours (and if you’ve steamed them, any of the less cooked slices to cook through).
From this point, if the liquid seems to be evaporating to quickly at any time, add a little more hot water from the kettle. Stir in the cornflour/potato flour mixture along with the vinegar, and incorporate thoroughly, turning or tossing until the sauce thickens. You will only have a small amount of sauce (you can make this without adding the starch too if you like, as the aubergines will absorb most of the liquid). Add the majority of the sliced spring onions, and toss through for a minute, then finally stir in the toasted sesame oil, taste for seasoning (add a dash more soy, or pinch of salt, if you think it needs it) and serve, scattered with the remaining spring onions.