Thursday, 16 October 2014

Aubergines - Egg Plant.

The first time I ever ate an aubergine was in London in 1976.  Those were the days when most folk didn't even know what it was or how it should be cooked.  I didn't buy it or cook it myself - I was presented with it as a starter in a Greek restaurant and I loved it.  All these years later I am now growing them for the first time.  During summer we had to water them constantly and we still lost loads to the ferocity of the sun turning them bad before they had even ripened.  But now in Autumn the crop is really coming on and we are harvesting them every day... but what to do with them?

My favourite dish - and one that I first found in a vegetarian cookbook back in the 1970's when I couldn't even find an aubergine in the shops.

Aubergine with Tomato and Cinnamon
Ingerdients: One large or two small aubergines.  One onion finely chopped, a jar or packet of tomato passata, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a handful of sultanas or raisins and a few toasted almond slithers.  A sprinkling of grated cheese and possibly fresh breadcrumbs to garnish.

Method:  Make a tomato sauce by frying the onion in a little veggie oil until it is soft but not brown.  Add the tomato passata and a teaspoon of sugar and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, if it seems very thick you can add a little water.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Meanwhile.... cut the aubergine into slices but leaving them still attached at the stalk end.  Place in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle a little salt over the top.  Sprinkle them with the cinnamon and throw over the sultanas and almonds.

Add the tomato sauce and pop the dish into the oven uncovered and cook at around 190C for approximately 30 to 45 minutes (my oven is not a good indication of timings since it doesn't hold the temperature well) or until the aubergines are starting to collapse.

When cooked they should be soft and slightly mushy... the skins will be a little firmer and will hold them together.  At this point sprinkle over some grated cheese (any kind at all) the breadcrumbs if using and replace in the oven or under a grill.  The dish is ready when the cheese has melted.

Eat with crusty bread and a salad for a lunch or as an accompaniment to sausages for a main meal.

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Michaelmas Goose

This goose recipe is full of Chinese flavours and served with a tangy sweet and sour pineapple sauce.

Take one goose and rub it all over with olive oil and then Chinese Five Spice and some grated root ginger.  Cut  a couple of oranges in half and stuff them into the cavity along with some crushed sage leaves and a bashed smallish chunk of root ginger.  Leave it to marinade in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Bring the goose to room temperature and preheat the oven to 180C.  Rub the goose with a little more olive oil and cover the legs with tin foil to stop them burning.  Rest the goose onto a rack in a roasting tray and pop it into the oven for about three hours.  Baste frequently and keep checking to see if its cooked.  The meat should be shrinking from the ends of the legs and when pierced with a skewer the juices should run clear.  Once it is cooked.  Remove it from the oven and cover with tin foil and then a towel and leave it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile.... to make the pineapple sauce.  Chop up a fresh pineapple or drain a tin of pineapple chunks and put the pineapple into a saucepan with a celery stalk cut into thin slices.  Add some finely chopped ginger and half a cup of water or the juice from the pineapple tin.  Cook this mixture until the celery is soft.

Mix four tablespoons of brown sugar with four tablespoons of cider vinegar and one tablespoon of soy sauce.  Add this mixture to the pineapple and celery pan and thicken it slightly with a little cornflour.  Let it bubble for five minutes and then take it off the heat and whizz it in a food processor to make a smooth sauce.  Serve warm with the goose.

Along with this special dinner we had braised mushrooms (sliced mushrooms cooked with a little chicken stock and soy sauce and some chopped spring onions) and cauliflower tempura - par boiled cauliflower dipped in an egg batter and deep fried and some egg noodles.  It was delish!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Herb Butters

Although it is possible to grow herbs all through the winter here it is still useful to try and preserve some for when the weather is bad and I don't want to don wellies and rain mac to make the journey to the herb garden.  The most usual and easiest way to keep herbs is to simply dry them.  You'd think this was easy with the amount of sun that we have but no, nothing is ever quite that that straight forward.

The sun is so fierce that drying stuff is fraught with difficulties - things that are still not dry can be burned to a crisp just an hour later.  So I decided to make some herb butters for putting on cooked veg.  This really is a no brainer when it comes to the difficulty ratings.

Choose your herb.  (I picked some mint and some sage.)  Wash and dry the herb and pick off the leaves.

Chop the leaves very finely.  And mix with softened butter.

Roll the butter into a sausage shape using some greaseproof or parchment paper.

Label and pop it into the freezer.  A slice can be sawn off the frozen butter as and when needed and mixed with potatoes or whatever takes your fancy.  If you are going to use it up fairly quickly you don't need to freeze it, just put it in the door of the fridge to harden up a bit.

Still on the herbs and preserving lark I also put some home grown chillies and basil into extra virgin olive oil.

This is not so much to preserve the herb as to flavour the oil which will be delicious used for salad dressings or drizzled onto cheese and tomato sandwiches or on pizza or... well the list is virtually endless.  One of the jars of oil is also going to be a gift for someone's birthday.  So easy to do and looks really special if you use a nice bottle or jar and decorate it.