Posts Tagged ‘aubergine’

With the onset of cooler nights I want my dinners to pack warmth.  The best and most effective way to add warmth to your dinner is by adding spice.  There are so many different types of spice to add warmth to a meal that you can pretty much tailor make the flavours to suit you. Creating an Curry from scratch is actually quite simple and is a great way of creating food with spice.

There are times when I use holy the trinity of aromatic spices: ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric to create a taste of the ancient world in a beef tagine or Garam masala chicken dish.  If I want something to have a bright, chilli-citrus hit then it will be a Thai prawn curry with chilli, lemongrass and lime.  But there are times when only the South Asian flavours which combine the taste of the aromatic spices with the rounded warmth of ground ginger, the pungent heat of mustard seeds and cayenne pepper are sometimes the flavours I want in a beef or chicken curry.  These spice blends don’t always have to be made from scratch – shop around and find one that works for you.

To create a Meat-free Monday dish, substitute the beef of chicken for aubergine chunks.  The aubergine when cooked in large chunks holds its own without becoming mushy; it retains a meaty-kind of texture and does not disappoint.

The lemon pickle can sound frivolous but makes the world of difference to this dish and is super easy to create.

Aubergine Curry with Cardamom Rice and lemon pickle

Ingredients:

1 Aubergine per person

1 large onion

2 large tomatoes

1 tblspn tomato paste

2 cloves of garlic

1 tblspn curry powder of choice

 

3 cardamom pods

Basmati rice

For the lemon pickle:

1 lemon

1 tspn of mustard seeds

1 tspn of turmeric

Glug of vegetable oil

 

Natural yoghurt

 

01a995efcf64056fc02386cfcb101fa257cf2210a5Aubergine Curry

1st: Cut the aubergine into large chunks and drizzle in olive oil.  Either griddle or fry the aubergine chunks.

2nd: Slice the onions and fry until soft and add chopped garlic.  Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan along with the tomato paste.  Let this simmer for 5 mins before adding the aubergine.

3rd: Add the tblspn of curry powder to the saucepan and mix well.  Allow to simmer gently for a few minutes before sprinkling coriander over and serving.

 

Basmati Rice

I prepare my rice via the absorption method usually adding a few pressed cardamom pods and or cinnamon stick to the pan.

Lemon Pickle

Slice a whole lemon down its length and cut each half into quarters.  Cut the lemon into small, thin pieces.  Remove any seeds.

Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.  Once the mustard seeds start popping add the turmeric and turn in the lemon pieces.

 

Serve with a generous dollop of yoghurt.

 

taste, flavour, snack, relish

As the hazy, orange sun sets over these lazy summer evenings and the insects clumsily fly through the shimmering evening heat, the scents and flavours that I want to immerse myself in are those of the Eastern Mediterranean.  However, it’s not just the food that I’m after, even though that would be no great loss (!) but the whole culinary, cultural approach.  No procession of courses, eating with your hands; food to get stuck into.  I envisage a multitude of different delicious dishes along a table that encourages conversation, sharing, food passed around and the tearing of bread.  To me, this can only mean one thing – mezze.

“Mezze are an integral part of life in much of the Muslim Mediterranean and are considered to be one of the most civilised and exciting ways to eat.”

Mezze: the word is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and comes from the Turkish meze meaning, “taste, flavour, snack, relish.”

At home, creating a mezze spread of eight to ten dishes is unrealistic, but creating individual pieces of a mezze every now and again can be fun.

Traditional mezze dishes include:  fattoush (bread and vegetable salad), hummus (chickpea dip), falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls), köfte (minced lamb meatballs), mutabbal (aubergine salad), souvlaki (lamb kebabs), tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad) and olives.  There are several more dishes that can be seen on a mezze table with each region of the Mediterranean creating alternatives and variations.

And with BBQ season in full swing why not try to create your version of a classic mutabbal?

Whether you know it as mutabbal, aubergine salad, poor man’s caviar or baba ganoush, this smoky aubergine dip is the grown up version of the ubiquitous hummus and is a classic part of any mezze.

Levantine in origin, it comes up under a variety of names from Turkey to Egypt and can be presented in different guises: a dip, a salad, a vegetable side dish.  It can be served loose and smooth to be scooped up by your flatbread or served chunky needing a fork to assist but no matter which variation you choose it will still be exceptionally good.

Gastrorob’s Baba Ganoush

The principal ingredients are:

The only strict rule that I insist you adhere to is that the aubergines must be blackened on open flame – too many versions fail to recognise the importance of this.  It is this process which gives this dish its distinctive, smoky taste.  Cooking them in a smoking hot oven will not give you the depth of flavour you require here – a grill set to max would work but it will smoke out the entire house. Those who have gas hobs can blacken the skins on the actual hob but this will make a mess!  Basically, a BBQ is the most effective and convenient method to achieve aubergines as desired.  Understandably, this is not the best dish to try to recreate in winter!

Ottolenghi, chars his directly over a gas flame, where Lebovitz chars them over a flame before baking in the oven until they have collapsed all the way through

My method borrows from both, I tend to cut into the aubergine creating a few incisions (face up) along the length of the vegetable, drizzle oil over and place into the hottest oven for 20mins and then grill on open flame until scorched and black.

Recipe:

Remove the scorched aubergine from the flames and then scoop all the flesh and juices into a blender (or bowl and use a fork).  Add the juice of half a lemon, one table spoon of tahini paste, a garlic clove per aubergine and a good drizzle of olive oil to slacken the mixture.  Season to taste.  Add chopped fresh mint and coriander.  Taste your baba ganoush and tweak the flavours to suit your palate.

Some recipes include tomatoes, after all it is sometimes referred to as an aubergine salad with tomatoes or a tomato salad with aubergine depending on which side of the Mediterranean you come from, but I find this just dilutes the intense smoky flavour that you want from your Baba Ganoush.

Drizzle olive oil in a dark green ribbon around the dish and if you’re in an extravagant mood rain over pomegranate seeds for that jewel-like touch of decadence that inspired this dish.

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NB: You lit up your BBQ to cook something other than aubergines on it!  Pinchitos (our beef versions of lamb souvlaki kebabs) is a perfect accompaniment to baba ganoush; serve with some BBQ-warmed pita/tortillas/flatbreads/naan bread and fresh coriander and mint sprinkled over.

از غذا لذت ببرید!

 

As you already know, I have recently embarked on an “eat seasonally” ideology.  And as greatly moral as this is, it can be harder than it sounds in a place such as Gibraltar where firstly there isn’t any land to cultivate and grow produce – therefore relying on imported produce – and secondly but more specifically, we don’t really have four seasons. 

We go from hot to wet to warm again!

But who’s complaining?! Considering the glorious summers we enjoy in this region that can sometimes start as early as late April and last well into early November; it is not hard to understand why there can be an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables on sale at our local grocers and markets; especially towards the end of summer and triumphantly ending their season in autumn.

Last to be picked off their trees and vines, and having soaked up every last ounce of summer sun, flesh ripened into sweet nectar; skins full to bursting – it is the purple, deep red to blue-black fruits and vegetables that make their prominence known within these autumn months.

Purple foods have become a hot produce colour of late (cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, to name but a few).  They contain a phytochemical called anthocyanin, which is responsible to help fight free radicals and some cancers but may also protect against heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.  Purple foods are good at preventing age-related memory loss, keeping the eyes and urinary tract healthy and lowering the risk of gum disease and stomach ulcers.

My Purple Plum Crumble is a remarkably easy dessert to make; my nephew’s favourite, and quintessentially autumnal.  The scents of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house make this the perfect autumn pudding.

Plum Crumble

plum crumble

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh plums, cut in half and stone removed
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • A few raspings of fresh nutmeg
  • A splosh of red wine or water
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar

For the Crumble:

  • 100g butter
  • 180-200g plain flour
  • 100g Demerara sugar

Make the crumble first: In a food processor pulse the butter and plain flour (this can be done by hand by fluttering the butter and flour between your fingers and thumb) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the Demerara sugar to the mixture and place into the fridge.

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

plums

2nd: Sauté the plums for a few minutes in a hot frying pan with the butter and sugar.

3rd:  Add the vanilla, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, golden syrup and red wine (I sometimes substitute the wine for port or a mix of water and wine or just water).  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 6 – 8mins.

4th: Once the plums have broken down into a thick, syrupy texture, place into an oven dish and cover with the crumble mixture.

(Optional Extra: add flaked almonds to the crumble mix).

5th: Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

6th: Allow to cool slightly before serving with double cream or cold vanilla ice-cream or both!

Here are other simple ways to eat purple foods:

  • I have previously extolled the virtues of porridge in Oat to A Good Start – so add a handful of blueberries or blackberries to this superfood to make it a super breakfast
  • Beetroot hummus and pita bread
  • Add aubergine to the meat mixture for Spaghetti Bolognese or Lasagne
  • Use pomegranate when making lamb tagines
  • Make a mixed berry compote to go over pana cotta
  • Blitz Greek style yoghurt with frozen berries and freeze for an easy ice-cream

I apologise if the mantra ‘Eat the Rainbow’ sounds totally naff; almost as if I’m stealing the Skittles motto but if a handful of blueberries in my brekkie are going to help me against all sorts of ailments then bring them on by the punnet-load!

Alternatively, a cheeky glass of red wine a day is also high in antioxidants!

Enjoy.

The recent Horsemeat scandal has left farmers incensed as meat sales have plummeted, supermarkets have lost billions in profits and governments struggle in vain to draw a line under the scandal over horsemeat being sold as beef.

horsemeat

So with consumers ditching beef for veggie ready meals it makes me question why people feel that creating vegetarian dishes can be difficult.  Wouldn’t it be just as easy to buy ingredients to create a vegetarian dish than buying a microwave pre-packed one?

By creating your own dish, you control the quantities, the amount of salt, volume… So why don’t some people cook their own vegetarian dishes?  Simple:

 Vegetarian = Boring!

If you try to convince a non-vegetarian that a meat free meal is delicious and exciting then you’ll just be faced with the deadpan certainty that they are awaiting the punchline in your joke.  Either that or they think you’re going to resurrect the vegetable stir-fry.  It is just a case of changing a mindset.  Question: how can culinary giants such as Italy and Spain create amazing vegetable dishes without the ridicule of their respective nations?  Answer: by never compromising on flavour.

The key to a great vegetable dish is to keep it simple.  Let the product speak for itself such as aubergines and honey; a simple Starter to any meal:

IMG_2337

Aubergine and honey

1st: Heat a griddle pan for approximately 8mins before you start cooking.

2nd: Slice the aubergine however you wish; I tend to favour cutting them in half along their length and then slicing into thin strips along the length of each half.

3rd: Pour olive oil into a dish and soak both sides of the aubergine slices in the oil.  Aubergines are like sponges and will soak up a lot of oil so try not to leave them dunked in the oil for too long.

4th: Griddle until scorch marked and softened from the griddle.

5th: Drizzle honey over just before serving.

Use ingredients to compliment your vegetable:

Mushrooms with garlic, chillies and butter IMG_23271

1st: Make the Garlic, Chillies and Parsley butter found on the recipes page.

2nd: Share between the mushrooms.

3rd: Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake at 180°C for 20mins.

Disclaimer:  The butter retains a lot of heat so take care when eating as you don’t want to end up with your palette blistered to shreds!

For the more adventurous cook why not try a Roast Vegetable Lasagne or an impressive melanzane alla parmigiana where instead of using lasagne sheets you use slices of aubergine with plenty of parmesan.  

Toptip: When roasting vegetables don’t add salt until the end otherwise they braise in their own cooking liquid.

Or if you want to impress:

Aubergine rolls filled with spinach, ricotta and pine nuts: 

aubergine rolls

Photo taken from bbcgoodfood.com

1st: Soften the aubergine slices by either griddling or cooking them in the oven.

2nd: Mix the wilted spinach leaves with the ricotta cheese and add a good shaving of parmesan.  Season to taste.

3rd: Either use tomato passata from a jar or create your own.

Start to assemble the dish:

4th: Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.

5th: Add a teaspoonful of the mixture to one end of the aubergine slice and roll it.  Repeat this for the remaining aubergine slices.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  To make this a dinner party indulgence why not cover in bechamel sauce before sprinkling with parmesan cheese.

Most of these vegetable dishes make a great accompaniment to any meal.  For example both the mushrooms and the aubergine rolls can be a side dish to meat or chicken if you so wish.  But celebrating them as a main course with some crusty bread is just as rewarding.  Remember, there are plenty of health benefits from eating more vegetables, they are tasty and good on the budget.

Buy vegetables at the height of their season as this will mean you’ll get the best quality product at the best price.  Buy what you need as they have a limited longevity; buy small but buy often.

No, I am not a vegetarian, but I hope through this blog entry I may have given you some ideas as to how to take the jump and cook up simple meat-free dishes that you won’t find boring or predictable.

Give them a try!