Gratin of Eggplant

I’ve had this recipe for decades, but haven’t made it for some time.

In the meantime I read somewhere that salting and draining eggplants to remove bitterness is a waste of time, so I don’t bother any more. Removing that stage from the recipe speeds things up.

To make it even quicker, use a jar of bought tomato passata instead of the tomato sauce.

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2-3 eggplants (aubergines) (about 800g)
olive oil
2 eggs
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tomato Sauce:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion or half a large one, finely chopped
400g tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 (410g) can chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp sugar
Topping:
4 Tbs Panko breadcrumbs (see note below)
3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C. Slice eggplants  about 1 cm thick. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan until hot, then add eggplant slices a few at a time and cook on both sides until golden brown. Repeat with remaining slices adding more oil as necessary, but not too much as eggplants have a tendency to act like blotting paper. Drain eggplant slices on paper towels then arrange then overlapping in a shallow ovenproof dish, in one or two layers.

Beat eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over.  Bake for 20-30 mins or until the cream mixture has set. Pour over tomato sauce (see below) and spread evenly. Mix panko crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle over the top. Bake for a further 15 mins or until browned. Serve with a salad.

Tomato sauce: while the eggplant slices are frying, start the tomato sauce. Heat oil in a frying pan and add onion. Cook gently, stirring, until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes then simmer for a few minutes until a chunky, thickish sauce has formed. Add salt, pepper and sugar.

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a starter or side dish

Note: Panko breadcrumbs are chunky, Japanese-style breadcrumbs sold in many supermarkets. Alternatively, just blitz a slice of stale bread in the food processor.

 

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

Don’t like anchovies? I have to admit I’m not mad about them either when they’re whole. But crushed into a sauce they add a unique depth of flavour which has been known to win over quite a few anchovy haters. A traditional Caesar Salad dressing wouldn’t be the same without them – but a lot of people wouldn’t even know they’re there.

I found this recipe on the New York Times recipe site which said “Just don’t mention the anchovies, tell people it’s pasta, cabbage and umami”.

This recipe is tasty on its own or as a side dish with grilled meat.

Pasta with Cabbage and Anchovies

500g dry pasta such as penne
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs butter
4 anchovy fillets
½ cup coarse breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper. To taste
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes, or finely diced fresh chilli to taste
8 cups shredded cabbage
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a small frying pan and add half the garlic and the anchovies, mashing with a spatula until they dissolve into the butter. Add breadcrumbs and sage and cook, stirring, for about 2 mins or until golden brown. Turn off the heat and season with pepper.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add remaining garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring from time to time, for 15-20 mins or until it begins to caramelise. Mix with the pasta and breadcrumb mixture, saving some of the breadcrumbs to garnish. Check for salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with the remaining crumb mixture and the Parmesan.

Serves 4

 

Indian Spiced Roast Lamb with Coriander Chutney

Somewhere towards the end of January I get cravings for a curry. Something spicy and a complete contrast to the food we tend to eat over the holiday period, with ham or turkey as the centrepiece.

As a change from the usual roast lamb with mint sauce, try this Indian-style spicy roast lamb. Serve the lamb with vegetables or skip the vegetables and serve it in wraps. Good for casual entertaining or teenage kids, where you can let everyone fill their own.

When it’s first made the coriander chutney is bright green. I made mine ahead and the colour changed, so it’s not so pretty in the photo.

Indian Spiced Roast Lamb with Coriander Chutney

1 leg of lamb
Spicy Marinade:
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chilli flakes or powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs tomato paste
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
Coriander Chutney:
1 cup coriander leaves, tightly packed
3 spring onions, sliced
1 long fresh green chilli, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
1 Tbs water, if needed
Garnish:
Coriander sprigs
Lemon wedges

Make slashes with a sharp knife all over the lamb. Place in a roasting pan. Place first 5 ingredients for Spicy Marinade in a small frying pan and stir over moderate heat until the spices smell fragrant. Place in a bowl, add remaining marinade ingredients and mix well. Spread all over the meat and rub in well. Leave lamb to marinate for a few hours at room temperature or loosely covered in the fridge overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cover lamb with foil and roast for an hour and a half. Remove foil and roast for a further 30 minutes or until done to your liking. Remove from the oven and leave to rest, loosely covered with foil, for about 15 minutes, then carve thinly.

Place all ingredients for Coriander Chutney in food processor and process till chunky-smooth, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Add water if it’s too thick.

Serve lamb garnished with with coriander sprigs and lemon wedges with vegetables of your choice and the chutney. Or serve it in warm wraps with the chutney and some extra plain yoghurt and maybe some shredded lettuce or rocket.

Serves 8

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

This recipe Which came from a Coles supermarket magazine is quick, easy, tasty and healthy. What more could you want?

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

4 boneless, skinless, white fish fillets (about 150g each)
2 Tbs miso paste
3 Tbs orange or lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
180g dried soba noodles
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2
150g snow peas, sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place a large saucepan of water on to boil and turn the grill on high. Line a baking tray with foil, spray with oil and place the fish fillets on top. Mix miso paste, orange or lemon juice, honey and sauce sauce. Brush both sides of the fish with this mixture and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place fish under the gril and cook for 8-10 mins or until cooked.

Meanwhile cook noodles for a minute or two, then add the asparagus and snow peas and cook for another 2 mins or until vegetables and noodles are cooked. Drain well and mix in half the remaining miso sauce. Divide noodles and vegetables among 4 serving plates. Arrange fish on top and spoon over remaining miso sauce. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and spring onions.

Serves 4

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

This lovely summery salad was in a supermarket recipe hand out. I’ve made a few changes as I always do. Perfect for the warmer weather when mangoes are in season.

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup boiling water
About six cups mixed salad leaves
1 mango, peeled, stoned and thinly sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper) thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
300g cooked, peeled prawns (weight after peeling)
100g feta or fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts or pecans
1 Tbs honey
Dressing:
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place onion in a small bowl. Add salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well then leave to macerate for half an hour or more. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange salad leaves in a large shallow bowl or four individual serving plates. Use small leaves or break larger ones into bite sized pieces. Top with the mango, capsicum, tomatoes, prawns, feta or goat’s cheese and the drained onions. Place walnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Add honey, stir to coat, then arrange over the salad. If you do this ahead and let them get cold they will stick to the pan, so you will need to turn the heat back on briefly to loosen them. Drizzle salad with some of the dressing.

Serves 4

Variation: use peaches or nectarines instead of mangoes.

Warm Rocket and Caramelised Mushroom Salad

There seem to be a lot of lunches to attend at this time of year. After a substantial lunch it’s nice to make something light but tasty for supper.

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2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
About 400g fancy mushrooms (shitake, oyster, porcini) or ordinary mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 cups rocket (or baby kale) washed and spun dry
¼ cup dry sherry
100g fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
3-4 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
Dressing:
3 Tbs sherry vinegar (or another kind
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook shallots over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5-10 minutes or until starting to brown. Add sherry, season with salt and pepper then cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile shake dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Mix rocket with enough dressing to lightly coat and place in a large serving dish. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on top of the rocket and top with the cheese and the pine nuts if using – I didn’t in this photo.

Serves 4

Las Vegas Country Club Salad

The Las Vegas Strip in Clark County, Nevada USA is famous for its hotels and casinos, many of which have amazing architecture and lights.

But there’s more to Vegas than the Strip. Normal people live normal lives in the rest of the town. They go to work or school and rarely go to the touristy area. We recently visited two cousins who live in Las Vegas proper, where they both work as lawyers. It was great to catch up and to cross the nearby Grand Canyon off our bucket list. We splurged and went by helicopter and it was indeed an amazing experience.

Tom and Bob both live in houses located in the grounds of the Las Vegas Country Club and we stayed with Bob. Invited to the Club house for lunch on the day we arrived,  I chose this delicious, healthy salad which was so good I decided to try and replicate it on my return.

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Mesclun or small lettuce leaves
12 large slices of tomato
12 spears asparagus
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1-2 pita breads
Olive oil and grated Parmesan
Paprika
Chicken and Walnut Salad
2 cups cooked roast chicken, diced
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste
Tuna and Celery Salad
2 cups canned tuna, drained
½ cup very finely diced celery
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
1 Tbs finely chopped red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg and Chive Salad

2 cups diced hard boiled eggs (about 5 or 6), diced
¼ cup snipped chives
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste

Make mayonnaise then make the three different salads by mixing all ingredients together. Use enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. Refrigerate till serving time.

Split pita breads in half horizontally, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some finely grated Parmesan. Cut into long pointy pieces then bake at 180°C for 10-15 mins or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Wash and trim asparagus and cook in boiling salted water for about 4 mins. Drain and cool. All of this can be done ahead. To serve, arrange salad leaves on four serving dishes – rectangular ones look good. Then place three tomato slices on each plate.

Find a small rounded bowl, ramekin or measuring cup which holds about half a cup. The diameter needs to be about the size of the tomato slices.

Spray with oil, fill with about a quarter of the mixture and pack down well. Tip out onto a tomato slice. Rinse, dry and re-oil then repeat with the other salads, so each serving has a mound of each. If preferred just dollop it on with a tablespoon.

Garnish plates with asparagus, hard boiled egg slices, a shake of paprika and a couple of pita toasts.

Serves 4

Julia’s Burgers with Beetroot Relish

I recently caught up with my friend Julia over a delicious lunch at The Palette Café. Inevitably the conversation got onto food and how we both love beetroot. I said we had grown some last year with mixed success. “Ah” said Julia “I have the solution”.

The trick is to soak the seeds overnight in tepid water and then plant the drained seeds in potting mix in cardboard toilet roll holders. Once they are up plant the seedlings, toilet roll holder and all, into the soil. Julia grows zucchini and pumpkin the same way.

Word went out that Matthew needed empty toilet roll holders and before you could say Jack Robinson friends and family all over town were coming to the rescue. It’s interesting to see how many some families go through in a week and how abstemious others are by comparison. On this subject Matthew quotes a statistic from his time in the Australian Army. Requirements were calculated on the basis of seven and a half squares per man per day. With a lot more women in the military these days they’ve no doubt had to throw those figures out the window.

While on the subject of beetroot Julia promised to send me her recipe for Veal Burgers with Beetroot Relish which she cut out of the local newspaper some time ago. If you don’t have veal use beef, pork or chicken mince. If you are unable to buy Tzatziki either make your own – there are plenty of recipes online – or just leave it out. The burgers are almost as good served with just the Beetroot Relish.

I used English mustard instead of Dijon in the relish and doubled the amount from half to one teaspoonful. The coarse (0.5cm) grating disc attachment on my Magimix made short work of grating the apples and beetroot.

The recipe says to leave the relish for 3 weeks to mature before using. I think we gave ours about 30 minutes! It was still scrumptious and there’s plenty left over for the next batch of burgers!

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Burgers
400g veal mince (or beef, pork, chicken)
2 Tbs semi-dried or dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 Tbs pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve
2-3 zucchini cut into ribbons with vegetable peeler
1 Tbs olive oil
4 bread buns, split and toasted, or 4 pieces toasted baguette
Handful of baby spinach leaves
Few cherry tomatoes
1 small tub Tzatziki (bought)
1 Tbs chopped mint
Beetroot Relish (see recipe below)

Mix all ingredients for burgers and form into four patties. Cut zucchini into long ribbons and mix with the oil. Heat a barbecue, griddle pan or non-stick frying pan and cook the burgers for about 5 minutes each side or until done to your liking. Cook the zucchini strips on both sides on the same barbecue or in a second frying pan, until golden, then drain on paper towels.

Arrange a few spinach leaves on one half of the toasted buns or baguette, then the burgers. Garnish with tomatoes, zucchini ribbons and some Beetroot Relish. Mix the mint into the Tzatziki and serve separately.

Serves 4

Beetroot Relish
400g beetroots
200g green apples
1 Tbs oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup white wine or cider vinegar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp English mustard (or Dijon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 whole cloves
5cm piece of orange rind, removed with a potato peeler

Place beetroots in a saucepan, cover with water, then cook for about 40 mins or until tender. Cool, peel, then grate coarsely. Peel and coarsely grate the apples.

Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the apple and remaining ingredients, except the grated beetroot and cook for 10 minutes or so, until cooked down. Then add the beetroot and continue to cook for about 30 minutes until thickened like a relish. You’re supposed to remove and discard the piece of orange rind, but I finely chopped it and mixed it back in.

Pour into clean sterilised jars and seal while hot. If possible, leave for 3 weeks to mature before using. To sterilise jars place them in the microwave on High for 2 minutes without the lids.

 

 

Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant, Pine Nuts and Raisins

I’m always on the lookout for tasty new ways to serve pasta.

As we discovered when we spent a week there last year, Sicilian cuisine uses a lot of eggplant, one of my favourite vegetables. In this traditional Sicilian recipe it’s combined with tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts and capers. Two photos this week – one in the pan and one on the plate.

Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant, Pine Nuts and Raisins

3 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ small red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 Tbs fresh marjoram or oregano, chopped (or 1 Tbs dried)
1 large eggplant (aubergine) cut into 2cm cubes
2 Tbs raisins
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
½ cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g pasta (e.g penne, fusilli, rigatoni)
To serve:
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 Tbs fresh chopped mint (or parsley)
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, garlic, chilli and marjoram until onion is soft, but not browned. Remove from pan. Add remaining 2 Tbs oil to the pan and cook the eggplant, stirring. When golden add raisins, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar then return the onion mixture to the pan. Add the capers, vinegar and water, then simmer gently while you cook the pasta. If it gets too dry add a bit more water.

Cook pasta until al dente. Season the eggplant sauce, then mix into the pasta. Serve topped with the pine nuts, mint, grated cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

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Bryony’s Beetroot Coleslaw

Bryony Hill came to our wedding, so we go back a long way. She lives in England in the county of Sussex where she writes, cooks, grows vegetables and keeps chickens. Bryony has written several books on subjects such as gardening, cooking and dogs and recently published My Gentleman Jim about her late husband Jimmy Hill, the famous and much-loved British football commentator.

Bryony recently posted her recipe for Beetroot Coleslaw on Facebook. I’m a big fan of beetroot, especially when it’s raw, so I made a note to make it as soon as we got back from our recent travels.

It goes very well with grilled or barbecued meats, keeps for a couple of days in the fridge and makes a great filler for sandwiches or wraps.

Of course the beetroot turns everything pink so I did consider renaming it Bryony’s Pink Slaw.

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3-4 beetroots, peeled
1 Lebanese cucumber
3 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 bulb fennel
1 kohlrabi
2-3 carrots, peeled
A handful of radishes
2 stalks celery
¼ cup light mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup plain Greek yoghurt
Juice of ½ to 1 lemon, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Coarsely grate, thinly slice or shred all the vegetables and place in a large bowl. I used a large (5mm) grating disc on my Magimix for the beetroots and carrots, then the thin slicing disc for everything else. I thinly sliced the cucumber, then cut the slices in half.

Add mayonnaise, yoghurt, lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Add a bit more mayonnaise or yoghurt if necessary.

If you’re missing any of the vegetables (I didn’t have any kohlrabi) just leave it out or substitute something else such as white or red cabbage.

Serves 4-6