Chris Baber’s Za’atar Roast Aubergine with Cumin Rice

Za’atar Roast Aubergine with Cumin Rice

This Middle Eastern-inspired veggie recipe looks epic served on a platter in the middle of the table – perfect if you’re feeding a crowd over the festive period. Za’atar is a blend of herbs and spices with a nice zing to it.

Chris Baber

Our top North East chef is sharing some of his latest kitchen creations…

Serves 6


3 aubergines, cut in half lengthways 

Juice of 1 lemon

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 

6 tbsp za’atar, plus 2 tsp to serve 

6 tbsp plain yoghurt 

1 small bunch of mint, leaves chopped

200g pomegranate seeds

Salt and pepper

For the rice

600g basmati rice

2 tbsp cumin seeds

2 large onions, thinly sliced

Butter (optional) 


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. 

Use a sharp knife to make a criss-cross pattern on the inside of each aubergine half, about 1cm deep. 

Lay the aubergines on a baking tray. Pour half of the lemon juice over the cut side of the aubergines. Drizzle all over with 6 tbsp of oil, season with salt and pepper and scatter over 6 tbsp of za’atar. Use your hands to rub the oil and za’atar all over the aubergines, getting it into the grooves. 

Give the aubergines a final drizzle of oil and roast for about 45 minutes until soft and slightly charred on top. 

To make the rice, weigh the rice in a measuring jug or mug. (You will need 2 x the volume of boiling water to rice for cooking later, so 1 mug of rice = 2 mugs of water.) 

Put the rice into a sieve, rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, then set aside. Boil the kettle. 

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add the onions with a good pinch of salt and fry for 5 minutes until golden.