The idea for this blog came when I realised, after leaving my corporate life, how much food I was throwing away, if I had over-provisioned (that happened SO often). It was therefore a stark reminder of my old life when towards the end of last week I was faced with leeks, feta cheese, an astonishingly pretty striped aubergine, a couple of San Marzano tomatoes and the dregs of the carton of creme frâiche. A rummage in the dry goods drawer also revealed a sad, almost empty bag of pearl barley. This post therefore, is not quite episode 3 of Supermarket Siesta which follows later this week, but I felt did talk to the origin of this blog.
The weather had begun to feel more like autumn, although not yet cold enough to trigger my soup-making (although enough to make me feel like Kanga counting Roo’s vests). So what to make? When in doubt, consult Elizabeth David is my motto and after half an hour in her company, and an espresso, I had inspiration, although I have to say I made most of this up as I went along.
So here are two simple recipes that are quick, reasonably priced and can be dressed up and down to suit either a solo lunch or supper at home, or serve as starters or main courses. I have a number of vegetarian friends and these work well for them, although I’m still working with a limited repertoire for vegans. I don’t seem to be able to get past using eggs, cheese and butter; my fault I know and I probably need to find the time to do a whole lot more research.
I think the stuffed aubergines will be a regular through the autumn and winter and I’m looking forward to playing around with the flavours.
Stuffed AuberginesPrint Recipe
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 40g uncooked weight pearl barley
- 2 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped and chopped (I don’t always bother to chop as I don’t mind seeing the little leaves in the finished recipe)
- 0.25 tsp ground cumin
- finely grated zest of half a lemon
- 1 dsp capers, rinsed and chopped
- 40 - 50 g feta cheese
- 2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
- Salt and freshly milled black pepper
- A greased oven tray
Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C/180 degrees fan
Set the pearl barley to cook over a moderate flame until al dente then drain
Cut out the flesh of the aubergine, chopping it into 1cm dice. Leave a slim shell of aubergine skin and set aside.
I find an old grapefruit knife remarkably useful for this operation. Try your best not to pierce the shell as it will leak horribly.
Heat the oil in a thick based pan and soften the shallot and garlic, without letting them colour
Add the aubergine flesh and cumin and cook until the aubergine begins to soften
Add the tomato, thyme and barley and mix well
Allow to simmer until the mixture is quite dry - the tomato juices must evaporate to stop the mixture being sloppy and also to intensify the flavours
Add the grated lemon zest and capers and check the seasoning
Fill the two aubergine shells, packing the mixture quite firmly
Crumble over the feta cheese and finish with the breadcrumbs
Cook for 25 - 30 minutes until the stuffing is hot, cheese melting and the aubergine shells a bit wrinkly
I prefer to eat this warm rather than hot and like it with either a simple green salad or buttered savoy cabbage. Feel free to experiment with the spices here; I can imagine cinnamon being good and to shake things in a different flavour direction, ground cardamom and/or fennel seeds. Just thought - dried porcini mushrooms, soaked and finely chopped could be good too.