Taking away the meat element from our diet in the last few days has meant that we look closer at our meals in terms of sources of different nutrients and components – for example, finding alternative sources of protein. The MFW (meat-free week) was a resounding success, and I do believe that a bit of the habit has lingered. Not such great news if you are a fish, perhaps – we have been eating a lot of those…We had Rick Stein’s Thai fishcakes with green beans last night and they were extraordinary, served alongside some broccoli stir-fried with ginger, soy sauce, garlic and chilli.
People get a bit funny about doing what they love. We have been watching Raymond Blanc’s new series on telly lately. For someone I previously thought was a monosyllabic restaurateur he transforms in the kitchen into a slightly unhinged, über-Frenchman, a caricature of the flamboyant, eccentric artist; these elements of organic chaos combined with obvious skill make for far better viewing than ‘The Restaurant’. It is a joy to watch because you know there is a genuine madcap enthusiasm there – this is exactly how I feel when I’m watching the BSG like a whirling dervish in our kitchen, adding and tasting and knowing exactly what he’ll be doing next. I am the chaos without the skill, with one exception, this dip, a perennial crowd-pleaser.
1 large or two smaller aubergines
1 garlic clove (optional, depending on who you’re impressing)
Flat leaf parsley
Fresh red chilli
Salt and pepper
Pitta bread and crudités to serve
Roast the aubergine whole in a hot oven (180 degrees) for 45 minutes or until soft to the touch and the skin has started to wrinkle. Peel away the skin and the stalk and discard. Mash the innards in a bowl with a good glug of olive oil, a couple of squeezes of lemon juice, the crushed garlic clove, a small handful of chopped parsley and a teaspoon of finely chopped red chilli (with the white bits removed).
All the above ingredients can be added to personal taste, but the whole process is best done whilst the aubergine is still warm and straight from the oven – it seems to absorb the flavours better. I suppose you could do it all in a food processor, but mashing it all and stirring is rather fun. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with warm toasted pitta bread fragments (give them a couple of goes in the toaster – monitored of course - so that they are crunchy and strong enough to take a good dollop of dip).
This is a fantastic and failsafe snack or pre-dinner eat, with a flavour that is both fresh and smoky. It is great with crudités too – especially cauliflower – for a really guilt-free chomp. This is well complimented by an anchoiade: an anchovy dip made with anchovies, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic and breadcrumbs.