No other vegetable gets Chef Tom Walton more excited than charred eggplant – it’s a feast for the senses and takes him straight back to his childhood. Cooking vegetables whole this way is so often overlooked, but it’s a great technique for coaxing amazing flavour out of ingredients without fuss. Tom grew up in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, where he was immersed in the vegetable gardens and kitchen of a Lebanese neighbour, his adopted grandmother. Her influence opened his heart and palate to a world of Middle Eastern food and culture that continues to fuel and inspire his cooking today.  

Serves: 4


  • 5 eggplants  
  • Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsps chilli oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsps pomegranate molasses

To serve

  • 2/3 cup garlicky whipped tahini (see previous page)
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup roast chickpeas 
  • Handful dill sprigs and mint leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat a barbecue to high and cook the eggplants whole for 15 minutes, turning throughout, until the skins are charred and the eggplants are soft. Alternatively, working in batches, place the whole eggplants over an open gas cooker flame and cook for 10 minutes, turning throughout, until soft. You can also bake them by placing them directly onto the oven racks and cooking at 230°C (450°F) for 20–25 minutes, until soft (though you won’t get the same smoky flavour).
  2. Place the cooked eggplants on a wire rack set over a plate or tray and allow them to drain and cool for a few minutes, then carefully peel off the burnt skin, leaving the eggplants whole and the tops intact, if possible. Carefully transfer them to a serving platter, season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the olive oil, chilli oil, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses.
  3. To serve, spoon the garlicky whipped tahini over the eggplants and sprinkle with the za’atar. Top with the olives, crispy roast chickpeas and herbs, and dig in.

Garlicky whipped tahini: 

This is my everything sauce – I literally spoon it over everything from fish to a tray of roast veggies. It also makes a killer dip and is a great vegan replacement for yoghurt. I love this sauce as it is, but you could add so many other flavours to it like chilli, spices, miso – it really is that versatile. 

Makes 1 ¼ cups: 

  • ½ cup hulled tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely crushed
  • Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a blender with 2/3 cup water and blend into a smooth paste. Adjust the water and lemon juice until you have a silky consistency. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or fork, whisking in the water slowly until smooth and combined. Store in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.

In Tom’s new cookbook, More Fish, More Veg, out now from Murdoch books for RRP $39.99, he walks you through the key cooking methods for perfect fish and veg step-by-step, and provides pointers on sustainability and seasonality that will take the guesswork out of what fish to buy. He’ll also show you how to make veg the star of the show with his vibrant dishes that are full of life and colour.


Photography by Rob Palmer