Aubergine Caviar

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Aubergine Caviar

I have revelled in the sun today and in between having a hack at various bushes I sat in the garden and looked for inspiration for some snacks and nibbles to make and squirrel away for the coming week. I came across this recipe in a marvellous French cook book and gave it a go. The result – I have nibbled already – is stunning. Simplicity itself and it will keep in the jar in the fridge for at least a week – I doubt it will survive so long.

As for the photography – well, the sun was pouring in through the blinds and I am not sure if it has added or detracted from the aubergines – but hey, I felt like I was in Le Midi so it is as it is!

You will need –

3 aubergines – halved lengthways
90 ml olive oil plus a splash or two extra
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled but bashed sightly to release the aroma
6 thyme sprigs – you could equally use rosemary
Sea salt and black pepper

Get your oven to 180c. Score the flesh of the aubergine halves with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern. Place then on a baking tray flesh side up. Drizzle with the olive oil and season each one. Pop a clove of garlic and a sprig of thyme on each half. Cover with a sheet of foil.

Bake in the oven on the middle shelf for an hour or so until the flesh is really soft. Remove from the oven. Throw the thyme sprigs away. Take the garlic cloves, peel them and place on a chopping board. Next, scoop the flesh from each half onto the chopping board with the garlic. Get rid of the skins. Chop the flesh and garlic finely and mix together. Spoon it into a jar, add a splash of oil and seasoning. Stir well. Press it down and cover the surface with a little more olive oil. Close the lid!

Once it has cooled place in your fridge or larder. You can enjoy it as an aperitif with crusty bread or crackers.

Parfait!

Roast veg has the edge…

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Roast veg has the edge...

Sleepy sort of a Sunday today. A simple roast chicken stuffed with butter, basil, lemons and garlic on a bed of red onion slices accompanied by nothing more than a rainbow of roasted veg flavours. One aubergine, halved and sliced, one courgette sliced, 6 baby new potatoes thinly sliced, 6 cloves of garlic left whole – though I did split one or two to get the flavours going- 4 baby red chillies, 2 red onions quartered – all roasted for 45 minutes in olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper. For the last 15 minutes, I added 4 gorgeously ripe tomatoes quartered and about 250 gm of haricot verts which I had pre steamed. Then a handful of fresh basil – just because I adore the aroma.

Everyone makes this dish and it probably needs more of a shout out. It makes me feel like I am sitting by the coast near Sorrento watching the sun dip lazily over the isle of Capri – instead of being rain bound in the dampness of a cabbage and cauliflower ridden England.

Food transports. This one certainly does for me. A simple flight of culinary fancy that makes a sodden southern Sunday seem sunnier. I am replete now and off to cuddle up by the fire with a good book and a glass of something frightfully fruity.

Have a good week.

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Paella con verduras y jamón serrano…

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Paella con verduras y jamón serrano...

Last night I was once more in the mood for one of my favourite dishes…but this time I wanted to make one that centred on vegetables. I was very pleased with the result and the flavours were fresh and vibrant. There is no reason why you could not make this a completely vegetarian dish I guess, if you used veg stock instead of chicken and cut out the ham.
But that is not for me…..I wanted a hint of meat and the delicate wisps of serrano ham were a perfect match to the rainbow of veg. I reckon that this is also a very healthy dish- I’m not one for adding up this or working out that calory or carb wise – but I reckon this would be hard to beat for a colourful, healthy, reasonably quick dish that could not fail to impress your guests – or just you and yours!

Ingredients for 4 – with a little left over!

1 aubergine – or eggplant for my US friends! Halved, quartered lengthways and cubed
1 red pepper – deseeded and cut into squares or strips.
1 courgette – or zucchini! – halved, quartered lengthways and cubed
6 cloves of garlic
400 gm of paella rice – rinsed well under cold water
100 gm of serrano ham = cut lengthways down the centre then into strips
olive oil
125 ml of dry white wine – I only had cava in – I drink mostly red – but the cava worked just as well! Decadent!
1 litre chicken stock
Pinch of saffron – or colorante
Almost a tsp of smoky paprika
12 baby plum tomatoes, halved – or you could use cherry toms
Handful of chopped parsley

Add a good glug of oil to a paella pan- or huge frying pan if not – or a sauté pan would do – but for goodness sake go out and buy a paella pan tomorrow!

Once it is hot add the aubergine, pepper and courgette. Pan fry for about 5 minutes stirring all the time. Then add the garlic and leave for another 5 minutes. Add the serrano ham and fry for just a minute or so until it starts to colour and crisp a little. Add in the rice and move around the pan til all the grains look coated.

Then add the wine and let it bubble for a moment. Have a drink yourself. Then add the stock, saffron or colorante, and the paprika. Stir, and once it is bubbling, turn down to a very low heat and leave for 15 minutes stirring every now and then.

Then add the tomatoes and cook for about another 10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. The rice should still have a little bite, be al dente, toothsome…you get the idea. Toss on the parsley – remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes whilst you set out the plates and have another glass of something good.

Then serve!

I liked this as an alternative to my meatier, fishier version very much. Please get more paella into your life!

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Even my kitchen angels were impressed…..!

Herby Roast Chicken with Pan Fried Veg…

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Herby Roast Chicken with Pan Fried Veg...

Perfect celebration for an Ashes win against the Aussies. I had just served lunch and we had downed only a few mouthfuls when Jimmy Anderson delivered the coup de grâce. In the picture above you can see the side dish – I started these off in the oven with the chicken then finished them off in the pan when I added the most delicious sweet cherry organic toms, fresh basil and a whizz of lemon and thyme salt. It is basically a mix of courgettes, aubergine, red onion, garlic and red pepper. The chicken I split open along its back, opened it up to cook quicker, smothered in garlic oil and a combination of cumin seeds, rosemary, oregano and thyme. It looks quite frightening actually – but tasted divine.

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A thigh of relief…

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A thigh of relief... You know when you come in from work and you stand in front of the fridge and you ponder for a second and think….hmmmm… what are we going to eat this evening? Then you remember..(hey it’s  been a long day)….that you randomly bought a pack of free range thighs and chicken drumsticks at the weekend…and you have got some tikka paste left over from Sunday’s lamb dish. So….I marinated the chicken pieces in the paste. Left them for an hour in the fridge. I then put on Spotify and listened to a great new band called Peace and Love…then I opened a bottle of Shiraz and put on Bob Dylan‘s Modern Times…wonderful.The world was already looking better…. Ok…the chicken thighs and drumsticks went in the oven for an hour on 220c. I basted them after half an hour. Whilst I was listening to Bob, I decided to have a go at my very own Brinjal Bhaji. So- I sliced up, then chopped into cubes, one aubergine. I popped it into a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes then drained it. In a frying pan I decided to make a fine curry style dressing for it. I added a tablespoon of olive oil, then added a tsp of mustard seeds, a tsp of fenugreek seeds, a tsp of fennel seeds. I pan fried them for a minute or two – then tossed in the drained aubergine. I then added a tsp of garam masala and a tsp of mild curry powder. I chopped and deseeded a red chilli and a small orange pepper. I added them along with a finely sliced red onion. Turn up the heat and stir constantly until the onion starts to wilt. Turn the heat down, add a little rock salt and pop a lid on for 20 minutes or so, I cooked some basmati rice in my rice cooker with a pinch of turmeric to add colour, When all was nearly ready, I took the lid off the aubergine mix, added a knob of butter and a tbsp of crème fraîche. Leave on a low heat for a minute or two whilst you serve the rice and the chicken. Then add a good spoonful of the aromatic aubergine. This was a scintillating dish for a damp squib of a Tuesday. Oh yes…..back to my wine now…and Bob singing about the Mississipi….see you soon!

Parmigiana Pugliese…

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Last night’s supper was a new version of an old classic – melanzane parmigiana – my wife’s favourite. Like so many popular Italian dishes there seem to be a hundred different versions. I read about this a while ago in a book on Italy but the other day saw a recipe in a Jamie Oliver magazine I was browsing through. Had to give it a go. The key difference here is the treatment of the aubergine slices and the addition of mortadella sausage. It produces a wonderfully unctious and filling sauce.

Ingredients for 6

olive oil / 4 garlic cloves peeled and finely sliced / bunch of basil, leaves picked and stems finely chopped / 2 medium aubergines / 2 x 400gm chopped tin tomatoes / 150 gm mozzarella torn into pieces / 8 slices of mortadella  a bowl of flour / 3 eggs beaten / handful of breadcrumbs

Oven set to 180c. Lightly fry the garlic and basil stalks in olive oil in a pan until lightly golden. Add the chopped toms, a little salt and black pepper and a dash of tom sauce or puree. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes until thick.

Slice the aubergine into 5mm rounds. Heat more olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Dip each aubergine slice first into the flour then into the beaten egg. Pop straight into the frying pan. Cook in batches – be patient! Each slice will take around a minute per side to brown up. Set to one side on kitchen paper.

In a deep ovenproof dish layer up your parmigiana.A layer of sauce, a few basil leaves and then a layer of aubergine. Top with 4 slices of the mortadella. Then more tomato sauce. Pop in half of the mozzarella and more basil leaves. Then another layer of mortadella. Then more sauce over this and another layer of aubergine. Finish with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover the dish with foil and pop in the oven for half an hour.

Remove fron the oven – remove the foil – add the remaining mozzarella and scatter over the breadcrumbs and a grating or two of parmesan.  Drizzle over some olive oil and pop back in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes til golden and bubbling.

I served it with lamb meatballs – though it is a meal in itself. And i also fancied some white asparagus in lemon juice and oil so we had that too! Greedy, eh?!

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Bits and bobs May round up….aubergines, Noah, rhubarb and Eggs Warhol…etc!

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Bits and bobs May round up....

Well. you can tell it is half term because I am eating breakfast! And so far, despite the Noah style rainfall yesterday, it has been very pleasant thank you for asking. This is a sort of catch all post – I have been experimenting a little and eating out a little and shopping a lot. Ok…this pic

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is this morning’s breakfast. It scores little, if anything, on looks… I agree…but the flavour was bang spot on.
2 eggs lightly scrambled with a slice of black pudding pan fried and then crumbled through the egg mix midway through scrambling. It mellows out the pud flavour and is immensely filling in a nice way! Anyway – there you go – it had a sort of Andy Warhol look – a good name maybe for it – Eggs Warhol.

At the weekend I marinated slashed chicken thighs in sloe gin, slivers of garlic and bay leaves for an hour. Then roasted them for about 40 minutes til crisping.

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I served them with courgettes oven baked ( I had pan fried them lightly first) with snowfalls of parmesan, drizzles of olive oil, garlic and a handful of Greek Basil – I love those gorgeously aromatic tiny leaves. Oh and I also did Jersey Royal new potatoes in butter and coriander on the side too. Got to make the most of these beauties whilst they visit!

Popped into Morrison’s near Basingstoke – as it is to me – one of-if not the best – supermarkets in this whole area. Nearest I have been to a French or Spanish affair. The veg counter is a work of art and has a huge variety of veg not normally seen anywhere unless you live in Brixton or some other marvellously multi-cultural spot. Everything from these gorgeous Graffiti Aubergines at the top of the page, to eddoes, fresh turmeric rhizomes, several different varieties of chard, cassava, different gourd, about 10 different types of chillies, elephant and rose garlic, hundreds of fresh herbs – all being sprayed gently with cold air. All fresh – nothing in plastic bags! The fruit counter is equally as fascinating – plus they have a phenomenal fish counter and a butchery populated by guys who are ACTUALLY butchers and know what they are talking about! If you have to shop in a supermarket then this slice of paradise is it.

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Right, enough sales talk – and I won’t even get commission!

Yesterday’s lunch was lemon sole in lemon beurre blanc sauce with spinach and new pots- again!

Not a great shot of it this – does not do it justice – still…

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Last night’s supper was a version of a Keith Floyd dish that I only seem to ever cook about once a year but I love it – it is simple and has a sort of Turkish / Greek feel to it.

He just calls it Minced Beef and Spinach – but I often miss out the spinach and I also like using minced lamb, which I did last night. Being someone who can’t just follow a recipe – I have to fiddle. But is that not what it is all about?

Anyway – I did. Fiddle on!

Ingredients:

3 spring onions finely chopped
12 okra trimmed
2 cloves of garlic chopped
butter
1 tbsp smoked paprika
500 gm minced lamb
1 cinnamon stick
1 chopped and deseeded red chilli – or you could use dried chilli flakes
2 large tomatoes deseeded and sliced
basmati rice

Stir fry the okra, onions and half the garlic for about 2 minutes in olive oil. Set to one side.

Next, in a mix of butter and olive oil, fry the minced lamb for about 5 minutes. Then add the cinnamon stick, the paprika and the rest of the garlic plus the chilli. Sprinkle in some black pepper too and a grind or two of sea salt.

I add a splash, no more of water, once the lamb is browned ( If you chose to add fresh spinach – about a half a kilo – at this point – no need for the water.)

Add in the tomatoes and the okra, onion mix. Continue to cook – it will be about 30 minutes in all. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

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I then cooked basmati rice – enough for 4 – and stirred it into the lamb dish. You could serve it separately if you wish with some plain yoghurt – I like the buttery texture of stirring it all together though.

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Simple and summery and perfect for supper. Right – out now to pick some rhubarb as the Ark appears to have docked for a while and the sun is considering making an appearance.

English: depiction of Noah's ark landing on th...

English: depiction of Noah’s ark landing on the “mountains of Ararat”http://www.facsimile-editions.com/de/nf/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saturday supper for Popeye fans everywhere….

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Saturday supper for Popeye fans everywhere....

Saturday was a bit of a stinker of a day at work so on returning at 6pm it was a case of cranking up something easy and tasty and social – so I turned to seranno ham and spinach! They were the first things to wave at me when I opened the fridge door so they got lucky. I must put out a big thank you to Peter Lane of icookyoueat for the inspiration for the spinach dish. I had them at his house recently, though I have to say I could not remember the recipe -blame his generosity with the vino! – so I gave it my own spin – hope they sound ok, Peter! They certainly tasted very good. I took a large bag of spinach and steamed it til it just wilted. Then it went into a sieve – well I used a fine colander – and pressed out all the liquid. I left it to cool. Then in a bowl I mixed some bread crumbs with a good handful of grated parmesan – please never buy the ready grated stuff. I added the spinach and mixed it together with black pepper and a little rock salt and some dried chilli flakes. I used a little beaten egg to bind it then rolled it into balls – then I pan fried them in olive oil until a little crispy on the outside but meltingly soft inside.

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I served them as a grand sort of tapas with an aubergine tray bake. I’ve mentioned this before but this is how I do it. Slice up
an aubergine (eggplant to my friends across the pond!), drizzle (that is such a sexy word) olive oil on a baking tray, then add the aubergine slices. Pop in the oven – 200c-for about 10 minutes til beginning to turn golden. Remove – flip them over – drizzle more olive oil over them – scatter some sweet baby plum toms around (or you could halve some normal toms – as long as they are tasty!) Back in oven for another 10 minutes or so- toms should be softening now. Top the aubergine with chunks of mozzarella. Back in oven for 5 mins – then out and top with slices of serrano ham – or of course parma if you wish – then back in the oven for final 3 minutes. Out – scatter over some basil leaves and some grated parmesan and a tad ore olive oil and black pepper and bob’s your uncle. Apparently. Serve with crusty bread. Delicious. And simple. You could add other bits and pieces – eg slices of oiled mushrooms to this too. Play around!  And the spinach balls go really well with it! Though, you could, as my friend Peter did, serve them on a bed of spaghetti or linguini. Popeye would probably smoke them!

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