Rosemary's Blog

Dark and smokey - made for each other?

Whiskies are like aubergines - their fans are obsessive and their detractors miss out on a lot! Both are amazingly versatile, full of flavour and utterly surprising. With the aubergine season in full swing (i.e. the UK garden and glasshouse season) it’s time to share some favourite recipes and the whiskies that I love with each dish.

To print or download the recipes, click on the pictures.

My Spiced Aubergine Dip features aubergines roasted or BBQ’d until blackened which develops a wonderfully smokey flavour. The dip is as good on a bed of salad leaves, or as part of a mezze selection as it is with crudités or crisps. I knew that it would be an Islay that should match with this and it was the Caol Isla 12yo single malt (about £41) that proved perfect. If the dip is slightly light in flavour the whisky brings richness to it, complementing the completely non-oily nature of the mixture and bringing out the richness of the eggs. It’s perfect beach food.


Have you tried a pesto made with lovage and parsley? It is a great favourite with us. Lovage is peppery and parsley is rounded and herbaceous - together in a traditional bashed or blended sauce they make a perfect accompaniment for mackerel and when that is served with fried aubergine slices you have something very special despite its simplicity. Make it all with a fruity olive oil and then choose a lightly smokey whisky to go with it: The ONE from the Lakes Distillery (about £30) is excellent as the smoke is light enough not to dominate but assertive enough to hold all the ingredients in this dish together.


Caponata is a dish of good things from Sicily and aubergines star in the mix. It is made with some preserved veg and vinegar as well as olive oil and cries out for a younger or lighter style of whisky to support and complement it. My first choice in terms of single malt is the AnCnoc 12yo (about £32) which is very fruity and bright and holds its own against the complex flavours of the salad. Selecting a grain whisky was an interesting challenge and I went back to the richness of Compass Box’s Hedonism (about £57) which cuts through the semi-pickled nature of the salad and adds a smooth richness to it. AnCnoc or Hedonism? It almost comes down to a lunchtime or evening combination!

None of these dishes and pairings are mainstream but all are just right for the tail end of August when palettes are a little jaded, the field are brown after harvest and, in a year like this when summer seems to have eluded the UK’s south coast, we need to make our own sunshine through our food!