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Posts Tagged ‘Aubergine’

Well hello there, we have been very quiet for the last few months while our new kitchen and other house renovations are happening. We had really hoped to be back to normal by now but we’re still kitchen hopping amongst our very generous (and patient) family & friends. So normal service will hopefully resume very soon and in the meantime here’s a fab recipe for a super rich ratatouille by Barney Desmazery for BBC Good Food. We served with some steak off the barbecue but it is also great on it’s own with some toasted bread.

Wine Suggestion: we love choosing southern French reds when eating this dish and find that Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre and Carignan (either on their own or as a blend) just work. Tonight it was the superb Faugères “les Bancels” from Domaine Cébène which is elegant, effortless and wonderfully long on the finish.

Ratatouille – serves 6

  • 3 red peppers, quartered and seeds removed
  • a handful of basil, separate the leaves and stalks (you will need both)
  • a large sprig of thyme
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 2 courgettes (any colour or a mix), roughly chopped
  • 1 aubergine, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 x 400g tins cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • grilled sourdough, to serve

Put the pieces of pepper onto a baking tray and place under a hot grill until blackened. Tip them into a bowl, cover and leave to cool. Peel the skin off the peppers, then cut into strips and toss back into the juices in the bowl.

Tie the basil stalks and thyme together with kitchen string.

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 4.

Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and fry the courgettes and aubergine for 15 minutes or until browned. It is easiest to do this in batches, adding a little of the oil each time.

Remove the courgette and aubergine from the pan and set aside. Add a drizzle more oil, then add the onion and cook for 15 minutes or until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic and sizzle for a minute. Scatter with sugar, then leave for a minute to caramelise before adding the vinegar. Stir in the cooked veg and pepper juice, season well, then pour over the cans of tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Add the tied herbs to the dish, cover, and cook in the oven for an hour. Remove the lid and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes or until reduced and jammy. Leave to cool until just warm, then stir through most of the basil leaves and the extra virgin olive oil. Scatter the rest of the basil over the top and serve with the toasted sourdough.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Maqloubeh: rice with aubergines & peppers

We had to change our plans at the last minute last weekend and instead of spending it away, and enjoying someone else’s cooking, we ended up at home with an empty fridge. Thankfully we could find all we needed for this fresh Palestinian dish in the local veg shop. The recipe is from Zaitoon by Yasmin Khan – we can’t get enough of this book! Really good served with some yoghurt, pickled chillies and a simple Palestinian salad but it would also make a great side dish for a crowd with some barbecued meat or fish.

Wine Suggestion: as this is both a characterful and elegant dish we’d recommend a fuller bodied white with hints of spice and freshness; a good Alsace Pinot Gris springs to mind first. However, we went a little different and chose the Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco, a traditional blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Friuliano and Sauvignon Blanc from the north-east of Italy. Layers of freshness and fruit, hints of different spices and an elegant, refined texture. So underrated as a wine and worth seeking out.

Upside- down rice with aubergines & peppers (Maqloubeh) – serves 6

  • 2 medium aubergines, cut into 2cm thick slices
  • 2 red peppers, trimmed and sliced
  • light olive oil
  • leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves but not peeled
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • 300g white basmati rice
  • ¾ tsp cumin seeds
  • ¾ tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 40g salted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber) or ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Put the aubergines and peppers on separate baking trays. Drizzle both with light olive oil, ½ tsp salt and thyme leaves, then scatter the garlic cloves amongst the peppers. Put the trays into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes. After 20 minute, add the tomatoes to the pepper tray.

Meanwhile, rinse the rice in cold water to remove excess starch (the water will run clear), then put into a large bowl of cold water to soak for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Set the cooked vegetables aside to cool and pop the garlic cloves out of their skins.

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell good, then grind in a mortar and pestle and place in a jug with the cinnamon, allspice and turmeric. Add the hot stock and ¾ tsp of salt.

Melt half the butter or oil in a large saucepan. Arrange the aubergines to line the base of the buttery saucepan – keep it neat as they will end up on top of the finished dish. Add the tomatoes, roasted garlic and peppers. Spoon in the rice, then pour over the hot stock and 150ml of boiled water. Bring the pan to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover with a clean tea towel and a lid. Cook for 20 minutes, then switch off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Melt the rest of the butter or oil in a small saucepan and stir in the Aleppo pepper or chilli.

Turn the rice pan upside down onto a serving platter, then spoon over the Aleppo pepper butter and scatter over the chopped coriander before serving.

(Original recipe from Zaitoon by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2018.)

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Iranian Pasta

This dish from Yotum Ottolenghi is very different from the Italian pasta dishes that we’re all familiar with. As Yotam points out, Italy totally dominates the pasta scene when in fact there are pasta recipes from all over the place. Try this if you’re up for something way more exotic than spag bol.

Wine Suggestion: We chilled down a Spanish red to go with this, the Jesus Romero Rubus, a vibrant blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Syrah from one of the highest vineyards in Spain. Unoaked this wine has a delicious purity and an excellent length with deep plum flavours, hints of pepper and spice.

Iranian-style Pasta – serves 4

  • 3 large aubergines (1.2 kg in total)
  • 140g crème fraîche mixed with 60g of Parmesan
  • 75ml of olive oil, plus a bit extra
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 150g Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 500g linguine pasta
  • ½ tsp saffron threads diluted with ½ tbsp of lukewarm water
  • 10g fresh mint, shredded

Preheat the oven to 230ºC/210ºC Fan/Gas Mark 8.

Pierce the aubergines a few times with a sharp knife, then place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is totally soft. Set aside to cool a bit, then cut in half and scoop out the flesh into a colander. Leave to drain for at least 30 minutes and discard the skin.

Put the crème fraîche and Parmesan mixture into a small saucepan with 75ml of water. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stir, then set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cumin seeds and cook for 12 minutes or until soft. Add the aubergine flesh and garlic, along with 1 tsp of salt and some black pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes before adding the lime juice. Stir for a final minute, then remove from the heat.

Add the yoghurt to the crème fraîche mixture and heat over a low flame for 5 minutes. Watch the mixture carefully – stir regularly and don’t let the pan heat too much or the yoghurt may split.

Mix the dried mint with a tbsp of the oil and set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water according to the pack instructions or until al dente. Stir 2 tbsp of the oil through the cooked pasta and divide between shallow bowls or plates. Drizzle over the mint oil, followed by the aubergine. Top with the crème fraîche and yoghurt mixture, followed by the saffron water, fresh mint & a final drizzle of oil. Serve straight away.

(Original recipe from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2014.)

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Hot & Sour Aubergine

This photo is a bit dark in colour but the flavours are vibrant and delicious and we’re now converts to soaking aubergine in brine before stir-frying to give a soft, velvety texture.

Hot & Sour Aubergine – serves 2

  • 1 large or 2 medium aubergines, cut into long batons
  • 100g green beans, halved
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 2 tbsp light soy sace
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbsp water
  • cooked rice, to serve

Put the aubergine slices into a bowl of lightly salted water and leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for a minute, then rinse in cold water and drain.

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over a medium-high heat, then cook the aubergine until well browned on all sides. When the aubergine is starting to take on a good colour, add the onion and chilli and continue to stir-fry for 4 minutes or until soft.

Add the sauce and green beans, cover with a lid, then turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes or until the aubergine is soft. Serve with rice.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Penne alla norma

We love Rick Stein’s recipes as everything seems to come from true inspiration and has been tested in a real world kitchen so it all works. This recipe is no exception and delivers in flavour and balance perfectly.

Pasta alla Norma is traditionally made with spaghetti but worked just as well penne pasta as a substitute.

Wine Suggestions: Aubergine tends to work with Southern Italian reds really well, but we had an unexpected burst of sunshine so opened a Provençal rosé, Chateau Vignelaure La Source, which is an old favourite. It worked a treat and  will definitely try it again with other aubergine dishes.

Pasta alla Norma – Pasta with Aubergines, Tomatoes, Chilli & Cheese – serves 4

  • 500g aubergines (2 large ones)
  • 500g well-flavoured tomatoes or top quality tinned plum tomatoes, drained (Italian brands are best)
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 400g dried spaghetti
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ tsp crushed dried chillies
  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 100g finely grated ricotta salata or crumbled feta cheese

Trim the aubergines and cut into two across the middle, then cut each piece lengthways into chip-sized sticks. Toss with 1 tsp of salt and set in a colander over a bowl to drain for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using fresh tomatoes, squeeze them over the sink to get rid of most of the juice and seeds. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil (about 4.5 litres) and season generously with salt (about 8 teaspoons).

Pat the aubergines dry with kitchen paper to remove the salt and any liquid. Heat 4 tbsp of the frying pan, add half the aubergines and fry until lightly golden. Lift onto a plate lined with kitchen paper  and leave to drain while you fry the next batch. After removing the second batch of aubergine, leave the oil in the frying pan to cool.

Put the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook according to the packet or until al dente. 

Before the pasta is ready, add the remaining oil and the garlic to the cooled frying pan and return to the heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle gently, add the crushed chillies and the tomatoes and cook over a high heat for a few minutes or until they have broken down into a sauce. Season well and stir in the aubergines.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce with the torn basil and half the cheese, then toss well. Divide between warm bowls and serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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Aubergine & Lamb Stew

This is not the best looking dish but who cares when it tastes this good. To quote Itamar Srulovich (of Honey & Co. and the author of this recipe):

“Do not cook it to impress. Cook it for the ones you love the most, or just for you; it is that good.”

We concur Itamar!!

Wine Suggestion: Try a Mediterranean-style wine, a Primitivo or something similarly juicy from the south of Italy. We paired this with a lovely organic wine by Michele Biancardi, his Uno Piu Uno which is a cracking blend of Primitive and Nero di Troia. Only 12.5% abv but juicy and delicious so it didn’t overwhelm the lamb and aubergine and had enough depth to compliment it perfectly.

Patlican – Lamb & aubergine stew – serves 2

  • 450g lamb neck, cut into large dice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 aubergine, cut into large cubes (about 350g)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into large cubes
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • ½ small red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Season the lamb cubes with the salt and pepper.

Heat a large pan over a medium-high heat, add the oil and the diced lamb, and sear the meat all over. When the meat has browned (about 5-6 minutes), add the aubergine, tomato, onion & garlic. Cover and leave to steam for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and stir in the chilli and thyme. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, then pour in the water and pomegranate molasses.

Keep cooking on a low heat for 50-60 minutes or until the veg have broken down and the meat is soft enough to tear with a fork.

Serve with bread so you waste no sauce!

(Original recipe from Honey & Co.: Food From the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich, Saltyard Books, 2014.)

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Haloumi & Aubergine Kebabs on a bulgur & pea salad

We’re much keener on nutty bulgur than quinoa that seems so popular at the moment. Bulgur makes for a much more interesting salad in our opinion and these aubergine and halloumi kebabs are a great veggie option for the barbecue. Leftovers taste nice for lunch the next day too.

Aubergine and Halloumi Kebabs with Garlic & Herb Bulgur Wheat 

  • 2 aubergines, sliced into strips
  • 200g pack of halloumi cheese, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing
  • 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped mint

FOR THE GARLIC & HERB BULGUR WHEAT

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 175g frozen peas
  • 6 tbsp garlic oil (to make garlic oil just gently simmer a couple of peeled and smashed garlic cloves in oil for about 10 minutes, then discard the garlic and let the oil cool before using)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful of herbs (such as mint, parsley, chives or a mixture) roughly chopped

Brush the aubergine strips with olive oil and barbecue until softened. Thread onto skewers with the halloumi cubes.

Mix the remaining olive oil with the chopped capers and mint.

Barbecue the kebabs until the cheese is golden and drizzle over the dressing to serve.

Meanwhile, cook the bulgar wheat in boiling salted water for 15 minutes or until tender, adding the peas for the last few minutes.

Make the dressing with the oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Fold the herbs through the drained bulgur wheat and peas and gently stir in the dressing.

(Original recipe for kebabs from BBC Olive Magazine July 2014 and bulgur wheat from BBC Good Food.)

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Burnt Aubergine salad

Not quite a Baba Ghanoush, but you can drizzle on some tahini paste to make it one. This was really delicious and we loved the freshness from the lemons and the burst of fruity pomegranate. You need to start this many hours in advance but the process is very straightforward and the result is worth it.

Burnt aubergine with garlic, lemon & pomegranate seeds – serves 4 as a meze plate

  • 4 large aubergines (about 1.5kg before cooking)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 80g of pomegranate seeds (about ½ a large pomegranate)

If using a gas hob, line the base with foil and keep only the burners exposed. Put the aubergines on 4 separate moderate flames and roast for about 15-18 minutes or until the skin is burnt and flaky and the flesh is soft. Use metal tongs to turn them now and then.

Alternatively, score the aubergines with a knife in a few places, a couple of centimetres deep, and place on a baking tray under a hot grill for about an hour (we do ours on a gas barbecue). Turn them every 20 minutes or so and continue to cook even if they burst.

Allow the aubergines to cool slightly, then cut along each one and scoop out the flesh and divide it into long strips with your hands. Throw away the skin. Drain the flesh in a colander for at least an hour or longer if possible to get rid of as much water as possible.

Put the aubergine in a medium bowl and add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir and allow the aubergine to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour.

When ready to serve, mix in most of the herbs and adjust the seasoning. Pile onto a serving plate, scatter on the pomegranate seeds and garnish with the rest of the herbs.

We served ours with some barbecued flatbreads.

(Original recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem, Ebury Press, 2012.)

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Moussaka

This is a really lovely moussaka which rates as one of our “comfort” dishes. We especially like roasting the aubergines in the oven rather than frying them which always seems to require vats of oil. The combination is a classic and is not difficult, but it does take a little time to bring together. It is always well worth it.

Wine Suggestion:  We’ve been inspired to drink wines from the Eastern Mediterranean with this and have found that top Lebanese wines, like Chateau Massaya, with their bramble and plum fruits plus velvety spices work very well indeed.

Moussaka – to serve 6

  • 3 aubergines, sliced 1cm thick
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1½ lb (675g) lamb mince
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato purée
  • a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • a few tbsp dry white wine
  • Parmesan (optional)

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL 

  • 1 pint (600ml) full-cream milk
  • 1 onion, peeled and stuck with a couple of cloves
  •  bay leaf
  • 2oz (55g) unsalted butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides then put on a baking tray in a single layer and roast until soft. You will either need to do this in batches or on two trays. They should take between 10 and 20 minutes but don’t let them get too brown.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and sauté the onions until soft and golden. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for another few minutes, then add the mince and fry for 5-10 minutes or until well browned. Season and add the cinnamon, then add the chopped tomato, tomato purée and chopped parsley. Stir well, add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the wine has been absorbed.

While the meat is simmering make the béchamel. Put the onion, bay leaf and milk in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and leave to infuse for 20-30 minutes with the lid on and reheat just before starting the sauce.

Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a small pan. Just as the butter starts to foam, add the flour and stir gently for a few seconds. You want a thin bubbling base – if the butter hasn’t amalgamated with the flour, add a tiny bit more. Bubble for a couple of minutes or until it turns a pale biscuit colour. Add about half a cup of the hot milk and whisk hard until the mixture becomes thick. Add more milk and repeat – it will take longer to thicken each time.

Cook the sauce more slowly and stir with a wooden spoon – add more milk until you get the right consistency. You want the sauce to be thick but not solid. Cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring often. Season and grate in a little nutmeg about half way through.

When the sauce is ready put alternate layers of aubergine and meat sauce in a deep baking dish or roasting tin, staring and ending with a layer of aubergines. Pour a thick layer of béchamel over the top; you might not need it all. Sprinkle over some grated Parmesan if you like then bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until brown on top.

(Original recipe from Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible by Tamasin Day-Lewis, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.)

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Capturing the summer season with fresh basil Pesto and aubergines. Serve with a simple green salad for a great starter.

Aubergine and Pesto Medallions – to serve 4

  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into 5mm-thick slices and finely diced
  • 85ml olive oil
  • 1 aubergine (about 400g), cut into 8 x 1.5 cm thick slices
  • 2 tbsp Pesto
  • 16 small bocconcini, halved or a large ball of mozzarella, diced
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 8 small basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Put the diced tomato on a paper towel-lined plate.

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the aubergine slices. Cook for 5 minutes; don’t worry if the oil disappears. Turn the slices over and add the rest of the oil if you need it. Cook for another 5 minutes, and drain on a plate covered with paper towel. Blot the top of the aubergines with more paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and transfer the aubergine slices onto it. Divide the pesto between the slices and spread. Spoon some of the diced tomato onto each slice (you might have a bit too much).

Arrange the mozzarella on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with Parmesan, season with salt and black pepper, then bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Drain again on paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

Wine Suggestion: You could go for either a light red with a bit of acidity, such as an Italian Barbera, or a textural white, like a good Vermentino.

(Original Recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion, Lantern, 2009.)

 

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This is a really rich and delicious side dish though you could also serve it as a veggie main with some rice. We went for lamb steaks.

Creamy baked aubergines – to serve 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 1 very large or 2 small aubergines
  • 1 medium onion
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 400ml whipping or double cream
  • Parmesan

Cut the aubergines into long thin slices. Put the slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour or more, until they have gone a bit floppy, then rinse and dry.

Peel and thinly slice the onion, then cook is some olive oil until softened, but not coloured. Peel and slice the garlic and add to the onion as it cooks. Put the onions and garlic in a shallow baking dish. Add a bit more oil to the pan and add the aubergine. Cook until golden, but not brown, on both sides. Drain well on kitchen paper so the dish doesn’t end up too oily.

Lay the aubergine slices in the baking dish on top of the onion, seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme leaves as you go. Pour the cream over the top, scatter over a couple of spoonfuls of grated Parmesan and bake at 180C/Gas 4 for 35-45 minutes, until bubbling and turning brown.

(Original recipe from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1, Fourth Estate 2009.)

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A delicious main course salad by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Lentils with Grilled Aubergine – to serve 4

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 2 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
  • 200g Puy lentils, rinsed
  • 3 small carrots, peeled
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • ½ white onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp  each roughly chopped parsley, coriander and dill
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche (or natural yogurt)
  • sea salt and black pepper

If you have a gas hob, you can put the aubergines directly on two moderate flames and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning often, until the flesh is soft  and the skin is burnt all over. You should protect the area around the hob with foil beforehand. Alternatively you can put the aubergines on a foil-lined baking tray and put under a hot grill for 1 hour, turning a few times. The aubergines need to completely deflate and the skin should burn and break. Make sure you pierce the aubergines in a few places with a sharp knife to avoid explosions!

Heat the oven to 140ºC/Gas Mark 1. Cut the aubergines open and scoop the flesh out into a colander, avoiding the black skin. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and then season with plenty of salt and pepper and ½ tbsp of the vinegar.

While the aubergines are grilling, put the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cut one carrot and half a celery stick into large chunks and throw them in. Add the bay leaf, thyme and onion, cover with lots of water and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for up to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, skimming away the froth occasionally. Drain in a sieve. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme and onion and transfer the lentils to a large bowl. Add the rest of the vinegar, 2 tbsp of the olive oil and lots of salt and pepper; stir and set aside somewhere warm.

Chop the remaining carrot and celery into 1cm dice and mix with the tomatoes, the remaining oil, the sugar and some salt. Spread in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the carrot is tender but still firm.

Add the cooked vegetables to the warm lentils, followed by the chopped herbs and stir gently. Adjust the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto plates. Pile some aubergine onto each portion and top with a dollop of crème fraÎche. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Wine Suggestion: The lentils and aubergine have an earthy flavour which would be complemented by a juicy Grenache or Zinfandel based wine. Try and find one that’s not too heavy though as big flavours could overwhelm this dish.

(Original recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, Ebury Press, 2010.)

 

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One of those memorable dishes that combines flavours and textures to capture the Sicilian sun and bring it to a grey and wet Dublin summer evening; magic.

Timballo di Maccheroni (Baked Pasta with Aubergine) – serves 6

  • 3 Aubergine, see if you can get the round, pale violet ones for authenticity
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g rigatoni, or penne rigate
  • 60g caciocavallo, or pecorino cheese, grated

Thinly slice the Aubergine, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for at least 2 hours. Squeeze lightly to get rid of excess liquid.

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4.

Grease a round cake tin with the unsalted butter; we used one that was 23cm wide and 3.5cm deep. put in 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and shake and turn the dish so that that they stick to the butter and line the dish.

Heat about 6mm of olive oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the aubergine slices in batches until lightly coloured. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper. Using about three quarters of the aubergine cover the base and sides of the breadcrumbed tin. Make sure that you overlap the slices so that there are no gaps.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft, but not coloured. Add the tin of tomatoes and season with salt. Cover with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes.

While this is cooking bring a pan of water to the boil, salt well and cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than the packet instructions, so that it is still al dente. Reserve some cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Spoon a layer of the pasta into the aubergine lined tin followed by tomato sauce, a layer of the aubergine and a layer of grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining pasta, tomato sauce, and a final layer of aubergine. Finish with the remaining breadcrumbs to form a coating on the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes and until golden.

Let stand for about 10 minutes. This will allow the dish to firm up.

Put a plate over the top of the tin and holding both the plate and dish firmly, turn both over together so that the Timballo turns out onto the plate. Serve in wedges.

Serve with: a southern Italian red like Nero d’Avola or Negroamaro, both of which have a satisfying earthiness but aren’t too heavy for the flavours in this dish.

NB. if you’d like to make your own breadcrumbs, which is both easy and satisfying, then remove the crusts from stale bread, slice and put it on a baking tray in an oven at 80C for an hour to dry out. Either grate and sieve the dried bread (which gives a more random and authentic look) or blitz in a blender.

(Original recipe from Georgio Locatelli: Made in Sicily, Fourth Estate, 2011.)

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Another delicious dish by Yotam Ottolenghi who recommends making some home-made stock which we duly did. Throw some aromatic vegetables and herbs into a large pot (we used carrot, celery, onion, parsley, garlic, lemongrass and fennel), cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes. This dish does take some time to make but is completely worth the effort and time with levels of flavour and texture that really make this risotto special.

Lemon and aubergine risotto – to serve 4

  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 130ml olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 200g good-quality risotto rice
  • 120ml white wine
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 20g butter
  • 50g Parmesan, grated
  • 10g basil leaves, shredded

First you need to literally burn one of the aubergines. Pierce it with a sharp knife then put on a foil-lined tray and place under a hot grill for an hour, turning now and then. You need the aubergine to deflate and the skin to be burnt and breaking. Carefully spoon out the soft flesh without getting any of the burnt skin, then chop the flesh roughly and set aside.

Cut the other aubergine into 1.5 cm cubes. Heat 80ml of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergine in batches until golden and crisp. Transfer to a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to cool.

Put the onion and the rest of the oil in a heavy-based pan and fry slowly until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the rice, stirring until it is well coated with oil. Fry for a few minutes, then add the wine and cook until nearly evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium.

Start adding the hot stock to the rice, a ladeful at at time, and wait until each addition is absorbed before adding the next and stirring all the time. When all the stock has been added take the pan off the heat. Add half the lemon zest, the lemon juice, grilled aubergine flesh, butter, most of the Parmesan and ¾ tsp salt. Stir well, then cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning with more salt and some black pepper.

Serve the risotto sprinkled with the diced aubergine, the rest of the Parmesan, the basil and the rest of the lemon zest.

Drink with: an Italian red to complement the earthy flavour of the charred aubergine and stand up to the acidity of the lemon. We drank a Chianti Rufina made by Selvapiana, where we visited in April, and it was superb.

(Original recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2010.)

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We cooked this for a veggie dinner party and it was really tasty. There’s a lot of stages involved so leave yourself plenty of time. We cooked it in the morning and reheated it on the hob while we steamed the rice and that worked well. You might want to ease up on the chilli depending on your audience – it’s quite hot.

Spicy aubergine stew – to feed 6 generously

  • 1 kg aubergines
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 big garlic cloves
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 2 rounded tsp turmeric
  • 10 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
  • 4 finely chopped red chillies (or less if you like it milder)
  • a small bunch of mint
  • a bigger handful of coriander
Cut the aubergines into big chunks and tip them into a colander, put it in the sink and sprinkle sea salt all over. Leave them for a minimum of half an hour.
Crush the cardamom pods with the flat blade of a knife and shake out the little seeds into a mortar. Add the coriander seeds and the peppercorns and grind them to a coarse powder.
Peel and roughly chop the onions, then cook them in a very large pan over a moderate heat until they are soft and translucent.
Thinly slice the garlic. Peel the ginger and cut it into thin matchsticks. Stir the garlic and ginger into the onions with the turmeric and ground spices. Add the tomatoes.
Rinse the aubergine of their salt and pat dry. Grill them on a ridged cast-iron pan until they start to soften and have griddle marks all over. This will take many batches. Add them to the onions, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
Add the coconut milk, chillies and some salt and simmer for 45 minutes. The aubergines should be very soft but not falling apart.
Lift out the aubergines, tomatoes and some of the onion with a draining spoon. Reduce the rest of the sauce by boiling hard for 5 minutes. Now ladle most, but not all, of the sauce into a blender and whizz until smooth and thick (watch you don’t scald yourself – we used a stick blender in a separate pot).
Return the vegetables and sauce to the original pot, then chop the fresh herbs and stir them in with a final seasoning of salt and pepper.
Serve with steamed rice.
(Original recipe from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1)

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