Posts Tagged ‘aubergine’

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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.

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Black Beauty

January 18, 2012

Why is the taste of smoke so appealing, do you think?

I love all smoky-flavoured things. Bacon, of course, and you may remember my joy a little while back at discovering the amazing smoky power of the chipotle chilli (which I shall be running to very frequently during Senor’s & my forthcoming vegetarian experiment for February – more on that later).  And smoked fish, too, is a thing of beauty.

But it was my dear pal Steph, aka the Empress of the Chickpea, who introduced me to the wonders of deeply charred eggplant and the big whack of flavour that results. She taught me to burn eggplants into blackened oblivion to get the best baba ghanoush, and it was she who gave me this recipe for a gorgeous Asian minced pork salad ages ago. I just found it among my emails yesterday and the memory of it got my mouth watering, so I set to with the barbecue. Lordy it was good.

I find it easiest to char the eggplants on the barbecue, but if you have a gas hob you can almost as easily (though rather more smokily) blacken them directly on the flame, turning regularly to get the things good and papery and burnt all over. During this time – when you may find the scorching stalks smell remarkably like a smoking joint! – the flesh softens and softens, turning into the fabulously velvety, smoky stuff that makes me swoon.

I have rambled here in the past about my love of eggplant in general … the fresh ones are so aesthetically appealing in their squeaky, glossy purple bulbousness, and that stunning white  of the flesh when you cut them open. But the charred babies have a different but equally stunning beauty, I think. Once the blackened parchment of the skin is removed, with the fruit’s stalk still attached, the flesh spreads out into this raggedly beautiful flare, like a dirty ballerina’s skirt. Is it weird of me, to think that I could look at this all day?

But enough hyperbole, lest I start to sound like Nigella Lawson (please, please tell me if that ever happens, and then tape my mouth shut – or break my fingers). Here’s the recipe, as provided by the Empress, who I believe adapted it from a Madhur Jaffrey version.

I used two medium eggplants which were heavier than 220g each by a long way, and I used double the pork mince because that’s the amount I had in the freezer (from Feather & Bone, natch, so it was deeeeeliciously full of free-range fat and flavour),  and I used only half the chilli because we are wimps, but otherwise the sauce quantities stayed the same. Oh and I used a bit of leek because I didn’t have any green onion. Despite all this bastardisation it was unbelievably good.

Smoky aubergines in a lime sauce (with pork) – adapted from Madhur Jaffrey

  • 2 eggplants each 220g
  • 4 tablsp fish sauce seasoned w lime juice (see below)
  • 1 med onion
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tbs veg oil
  • 100g lean minced pork
  • Salt & pepper

Leave eggplants whole, including tops. Prick lightly w fork to prevent bursting. Barbecue til black with soft guts. Cool then carefully peel skin off. If eggplant falls apart a bit just push it back into shape on the serving platter.

Make sauce:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tbs fish sauce
  • 4 tbs lime juice
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 3-4 small red or green chillis

Dissolve sugar in 4 tbs hot water from kettle or in micky. Add all the other liquids to that as well as all solids, finely chopped.

Heat oil in wok, throw in onion. Stir once then add pork, salt and lashings o pepper. Stir and fry for about 5 mins to cook meat, breaking up lumps as you go. Stir through green onion. Spread pork mixture over eggplants then top with sauce.

Steph’s note: “MJ reckons this serves 4, I reckon 2, catering for one slim eggplant per person. You ‘ll probably have sauce left over too which is yummy slopped over any Asian salady thing.”

So in the one I made, a larger amount still served 2 greedy people for dinner, with just enough leftover for one lunch.

Mine. Right now. Ciao.