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Home on the range: Mr Slater’s aubergine

July 11, 2012

Regular visitors to this blog might recall that I am an avid fan of the aubergine.

And winter visitors to our house know that I am also a fan of roasted or oven-baked things of every kind, as it means I can justifiably keep the heat cranked … while Senor reclines in t-shirt and shorts in an oven-induced tropical torpor, I find this kind of temperature juust right…

I’m also a fervent admirer of Mr Nigel Slater, whose recipes and writing in the Guardian I have always loved for their elegance and flair. I have his wonderful veg book Tender, and I shortly hope to deepen my acquaintance with hm via the TV series showing on the ABC – haven’t seen the show yet but look forward to it, to see if he can replace Mr Fearnley Whosywhat in my affections.

I do feel I know him quite personally now, as recently my nieces Anna and Rosie, both budding fine cooks (cue gratuitous photo opportunity – there they are below, after teaching me how to make pasta), sat me down at their house to watch the rather wrenching film version of Nige’s autobiography Toast (they had seen it twice – their other fave watch-over-and-over again movie is Julie & Julia. You can see why we get along).

Anyway – this week my warm feelings for Nigel, the oven and aubergine converged in perfect harmony when I came across Mr Slater’s wondrous Baked Aubergines with Thyme and Cream in Tender, also handily online here at The Guardian. This rich, rib-sticking winter food is something the English do particularly well, I think, do you?

I have now made this twice – once as per his recipe, and once with a couple of very minor variations. Nigel salts his eggplant slices and then fries them in oil before layering with the onion and thyme and garlic, but given that one then swamps the whole thing with cream (oh yes) and also that I am lazy, the second time I just sliced the eggplant and grilled on the barbecue before layering. Or you could dry-fry them or brown in the oven with the same result, I think. I also added some chopped tomato to the onion & garlic, taking a little passegiata down the parmigiana route. The second time I made this I served a big dish of it with some slow cooked lamb and lentils to a table of eight, and everyone loved it.

Nigel’s pristine recipe is at the link above, but my slightly lazier version is this – to serve 8. And I promise, what it lacks in elegance it more than makes up in popularity …

Nigel Slater’s creamy baked aubergine – serves 8

  • 2 large eggplants, sliced 1cm thick & grilled, baked or dry-fried till brown and floppy
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small bunch thyme, leaves picked
  • 600ml thickened cream
  • a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  1. Saute the onion slices gently in some olive oil till soft, then add garlic and fry a few more minutes.
  2. Add tomato, cook till soft and combined.
  3. Lay half the eggplant slices in the base of an oiled baking tray, then spread most of  the tomato-onion-garlic mixture over the top.
  4. Scatter the thyme over and season this layer.
  5. Layer the remaining eggplant over the mix and then the last of the tomato mixture  (I didn’t do this the second time but it looks nicer and more golden if you leave some onion on the top so I will from now on).
  6. Pour the cream over the whole dish, making sure to go to the edges.
  7. Season, sprinkle with the Parmesan and bake in a moderate oven for around 30 to 40 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Offcuts
Thought I might start to include a small list of other random things I’ve cooked lately at the end of these posts – this week’s list includes:
  • Yoghurt, my new hobby as you know.
  • The slow-roasted lamb served with this aubergine was very similar to this one, though with less liquid and just loads of garlic instead of the other vegies, and as the lamb was only a bt over 2kg I cooked it at 150 degrees for only about four hours – was perfectly falling-off-the-bone and delicious though.
  • Chicken stock (if I don’t have chook stock in the freezer these days I get a bit edgy – but the other day I didn’t think of it till mid-evening, so just chucked everything in the slow cooker till morning –  it was fab, and addressed recommendations I’ve recently been given by more than one good cook to barely simmer the stock and cook it much longer).
  • Our old standby fish curry with salmon instead of prawns & fish – love it – and this time I also made a very basic Charmaine Solomon mattar paneer  (peas & paneer cheese) to go with it (leaving the peas out of the fish one) and the always-fabulous CS leeks mirisata as an accompaniment.
  • Senor made two of Karen Martini’s amazing seafood pies and a huge batch of spag bol for some family friends who are having a rough few weeks. The rough puff pastry for the pies was mine, happily leftover and waiting in the freezer after my beef pies (see below). The seafood pies include Israelis couscous and lots of leek and tasted divine.
  • Another weeknight standby – pasta with cauliflower, chilli, anchovy & pine nuts – ours is adapted from a Neil Perry book but is a standard classic and very similar to this one.
  • And last, as I’m heading off for an intensive writing retreat with some friends next week I’ve made and frozen a few meals – beef pies (from my book but adapted from these ones of Maggie Beer’s), and Maggie’s quite amazing moussaka (more eggplant, hooray!) which includes a layer of pureed pumpkin and is one of the most delicious things you will ever eat – it’s from her Verjuice book which is a revelation.)
What about you all – any weeknight faves you wanna share? Or random triumphs that need boasting about? Eggplant issues? Love to hear your thoughts.

20 comments

  1. Toast is a lovely book. I just found this, one of my favourite bits, talking about his struggle to adjust to his father’s second wife after his mum died:

    Mummy hadn’t drunk snowballs or collected cigarette coupons, she had never cut tokens from the back of packets or stuck Green Shield stamps in a book. Mum had never played bingo and didn’t have yellow nicotine stains on her fingers. I am sure she would never have worn anything made of brushed nylon. (Mum wore mushroom-coloured clothes and had shoes and handbags that always matched. I had never seen her without a brooch. Mum always said ‘touch wood’ after she had tempted fate and ‘bless you’ if I sneezed or farted. She said ‘oh heck!’ rather than ‘bugger, bugger, bugger’.)

    *sniffs* It’s from an extract at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/sep/14/foodanddrink

    I have some Ottolenghi chicken with za’atar and sumac just about to hit the oven and home grown broccoli to eat with it.

    Interesting new developments in the world of stock nerdery from the Modernist Cuisine camp too, http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2012/02/the_pressure_cooker_makes_a_comeback_.single.html


    • OH god Miz CB that part of the film was HEARTBREAKING and I’m not sure I could bear reading it. Am amazed the little girls could cope with that parental death – nearly undid me, that’s for sure. Your chooky sounds divine and in fact my friend Miss Jane has also made that zataar & sumac chook her own so I know it will be.

      And lordy me, pressure cookers. The Empress has been evangelising about PCs for years – I believe hers is most frequently used for chickpeas, as her phobia of a kitchen without ready chickpeas is like mine about a stockless freezer. I have resisted, even when she bought a NEW one cos everyone needs two PCs… but now I’m getting tempted. Especially after my bloody wild rabbit disaster which I must discuss next blog! Shockingly inedible disaster that I went on at length about on Twitter – but was it you who told me a PC would tame that darn varmint?


  2. Might have been. My mum gave me an Aldi one, she is firmly of the view that every working woman requires a pressure cooker and a slow cooker 🙂


  3. 600ml of cream? I can hear my doctor screaming now 🙂
    Pushing him to one side, I’m definitely going to try this. Sounds delicious. I’m a huge NS fan through his book “Real Cooking.”


  4. Charlotte, not sure if you’ve seen this but if you love eggplant try this amazing recipe. I’d only add that all smoked almonds are not created equal and there are some very nasty ones out there. Best brand IMO is Hole-sum Smokehouse Almonds.

    http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-roasted-eggplant-salad-with-smoked-almonds-goat-cheese-164756


    • sounds divine, will check it out


  5. Actually salivating.


  6. Charlotte, I might try that eggplant recipe since I never, ever cook with eggplant.
    This weekend we’re hosting a Tour de France / Bastille day party – we’re all wearing lycra (uugh!). I’m going to try my hand at apple tart tatine but using store bought puff (sharp intake of breath!). I’m too scared to make my own. I hear Careme is very good but worth hunting it down?


    • Angie, I’ve never used Careme but people do recommend it – but I am sure any half-decent frozen puff would be perfectly good, I’ve used Pampas and others for years with no probs at all. My only advice is that you should refuse to stress – your tart will be beautiful and everyone will love it no matter what pastry you use. Have fun! I would say send photos but all that lycra could be incriminating…


      • I’ll post a photo of the tart instead! Yes, I’ll just use Pampas, they’ll all be too drunk to notice anyway…


  7. Another vote for the pressure cooker. Picked up my lovely stainless steel one barely used from a garage sale about 15 years ago. Cooked a batch of chickpeas in it yesterday. Also is handy as a large pot when needed, without sealing the lid and cooking under pressure.


  8. Hi Charlotte, I was working in a bookshop when Love and Hunger was released and despite winning an almost physical altercation with my (usually mild mannered) fellow booksellers over which of us got to take the reading copy home, I have since bought my own copy because I love it so much. Thank you for writing it. Will you be signing at Better Read’s high tea next weekend?

    One of my (now ex-) colleagues put me onto you blog the other day and I love the fact that my relationship with your book can continue online. Huzzah! I have put “Pumpkin Risotto” in my diary (it is scheduled for next Sunday), and am looking for a slot to fit in this rather delicious looking eggplant.


  9. Hi Charlotte,
    I wrote a rather long comment here earlier today basically saying how awesome I think your book and blog are, but am having a little wrangle with wordpress and it disappeared!
    I love you blog!
    I love your book!
    I will be cooking this eggplant thingy!


  10. Girlbooker, both your comments came through beautifully (the first one had to be moderated, not sure what I’m doing with these settings) and because I am very vain I’m leaving them both! Thankyou so very much re the book, and I hope we get to see you here a lot because there are many fine howtoshuck folks who leave amusing commentary and we welcome you with open arms.

    And thanks for the pressure cooker plug Another Outspoken Female – am getting very close to caving on that one ….

    HOpe you all have a fine week – I’m here at the coast working on my novel, and eating way too much. Sigh. I’ll be back here at the blog in a couple of weeks. x


  11. Thanks for the inspiration. Aubergines usually get the better of me!


  12. Hi Charlotte,

    I loved the photo of your nieces and was interested to hear they watched Toast; it reminds me of watching Nigella Bites with my kids when they were little, before it got too sad…

    Speaking of Nigella Lawson, there is a delicious Lebanese recipe for Aubergine Moussaka in her book How to Eat, although I haven’t managed to source the pomegranate molasses – there is only so much time one can devote to shopping. I probably substituted it with maple syrup.

    Kate


    • kate, go to any Lebanese grocer and they will have pomegranate molases


      • Thanks prendy. Will do!


  13. Love aubergines – and must prefer the term to eggplant. There’s a delicious aubergine recipe with pomegrantes in one of the Ottolenghi cookbooks.


  14. Aubergine. I just looove saying the word! So ” je ne sais pas”.

    A thing I do with them – I dont think it’s fancy enough to call an actual recipe – is slice and then soak them in vinegar ( I think it’s called infusion) for about 30 mins, then pat dry, roll in flour and breadcrumbs and grated parmesan and then deep fry. Serve hot and then later cold – if there’s any left over. Everyone who comes here , even the eggplant haters – lap these up. The flavour seems to intensify over time.
    Now back to the patch where I am trying to coax more on the vine.
    Julie



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