Our Recipes for peace series features a range of inspiring dishes to celebrate the varied - and tasty - ways in which food can play a role in building peace.
This week’s recipe comes from Ruth Simpson, International Alert's Senior Lead (Development, Impact and Learning) for Middle East and North Africa.
In the mid to late 1980s, I lived with my family in Cyprus as a young child. The most vivid memories I have of that time revolve around food. Cypriot food is influenced by its long and complex history, infused with flavours from different cultures. It is characterised by fresh herbs, spices and garlic, with Mediterranean vegetables, fish and lamb featuring heavily. It is over 25 years since we moved back to the UK from Cyprus, but we took many recipes with us, including some from a recently recovered United Nations in Cyprus cookbook from 1986! This book was published by the UN community in Cyprus to celebrate the International Year of Peace.
Back in 1986, the memories of the conflict between Greece and Turkey which divided the island were all too recent. My family and I lived in Nicosia, near the Green Line (a UN controlled buffer which physically divided the island). Greek and Turkish inhabitants of the island often hold opposing views of the past and of any future settlement to the current political stalemate, but share common tastes in food.
From this UN Cookbook, I have chosen (and adapted slightly) a quick, easy but tasty recipe of Aubergine Yoghurt Salad which makes a great accompaniment to a BBQ or buffet-style meal, and is best shared with family and friends!
Serves 8-10 as a side dish, preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time 15 minutes.
1 large aubergine
1 large pot of thick (strained) yoghurt
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Olive oil for frying and some for drizzling
A squeeze of lemon juice to flavour (optional)
Paprika to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the dish…
Peel the aubergine (unless like me you like the skin) and cut into 1 cm thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 5-10 minutes, until the bitter juices run out. Pour away juices, rinse to remove excess salt and pat the aubergine dry. Fry the aubergine in a little olive oil until brown. Whilst the aubergine is cooking, mix the crushed, raw garlic in to the yogurt, with salt and pepper to taste. Using raw garlic gives the yogurt a strong tang, though if you prefer you can fry the garlic before adding to the yogurt.
In a shallow serving dish, layer alternate layers of aubergine and yogurt, finishing with yogurt on top. Sprinkle with paprika, drizzle a little olive oil and add a squeeze of lemon juice to garnish, and it's ready to serve.
Photo © Ruth Simpson