Halloumi Aubergine Rolls

This is my take on pigs in blankets for the festive season, but just as good all year round.

To make 12 rolls

3 large aubergines
Olive oil
Harissa paste
1 pack of halloumi cheese

Top and tail the aubergines then slice lengthwise, first removing two opposite sides, then slice the remaining aubergine into four long slices lengthwise.

Brush generously with olive and then either griddle until browned and soft or pop them into the oven for around 20 minutes at 200C

You should now have 12 golden brown aubergine sheets

Spread a little harissa paste on each – about a teaspoon but you can vary the amount depending on how hot you like them.

Cut the block of halloumi into 12 equal sized sticks.

Take an aubergine slice and place with the thinner end towards you. Place a halloumi stick across the thin end then roll up towards the thicker end. Try to keep it fairly tight. Place each roll onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

When they are all done put them into the oven at 180C for around 15 minutes until the halloumi has softened.

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Harissa Braised Aubergine With Coconut & Chickpeas

A quick, hearty dinner. No cooking required and, better still, very little washing up. Just place it all in the pot, put it in the oven, wait for an hour or so, then serve. That’s really all there is to it (apart from a quick cooking of the aubergine to make is silky soft).

In the unlikely event you have any leftovers, it tastes even better the next day served at room temperature or reheated. be careful when reheating rice and make sure everything is piping hot before eating.

Serves 4

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot – sliced
2 tablespoons Harissa paste
1x400g tin of Coconut Milk
2 aubergines – cut lengthways
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 small red pepper – diced
1x400g tin chick peas
A small piece of cinnamon stick – about 2-3cm

Start by brushing the aubergine slices with generous amounts of olive oil. They place on a hot griddle, fry or roast in the oven, turning once, until softened. If using a griddle you’ll get attractive charred stripes.

Put the oven on at 180C. Now take a casserole dish with a lid and add the coconut milk, harissa paste, carrots, soy sauce, garlic, peppers, cinnamon and drained chick peas. If you like things a little spicy, add a sliced red chili. Stir well then place the aubergine slices on top and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Pop the lid on and place in the oven for at least an hour.

Serve with steamed rice flavoured with coriander and mint.

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Aubergine and Sweet Potato Katsu Curry

Autumn brings colder, dark nights. By the time I get home from work it’s already dark. I’m often tempted to turn up the central heating, but perhaps a cheaper and more satisfying option is to make a thick, spicy, sweet/sour Japanese katsu sauce to keep warm.

Not only does this sauce work well with crispy, breaded vegetables, but if you have any left over it’s great poured over hot chips or mashed potato. It also freezes well.

For the sauce
A splash of sunflower or other flavourless oil
1 onion – chopped
1 large carrot – finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic – chopped
1 tablespoon sugar – preferably brown, but white will work fine too
500ml vegetable stock
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 heaped teaspoons paprika powder
1 taspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon madras curry powder

Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the onion and fry gently till translucent. Add the carrot and garlic and fry for a further 10 minutes. Add the flour, paprika and curry powder and stir, coating the vegetables and cooking off the flour a little. Now slowly add the stock, stirring all the time so as not to form lumps. Add the soy and sugar and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or so until the carrots are tender and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and blend with a stick blender, food processor or by pressing through a sieve.

For the vegetables
2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil
250g breadcrumbs – panko if you can get them
1 egg
1 small aubergine
1 sweet potato

Peel the sweet potato. Slice the potato and aubergine into 1cm thick rounds. Place the egg in a shallow bowl and beat. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl.

Take a slice of either and dip in the egg, then in the crumbs to coat. Sometimes it is worth repeating to make sure the slice is well coated.

When all the slices are coated in breadcrumbs, heat the oil in a frying pan then gently fry for around 10-12 minutes, turning once. The sweet potato and aubergine needs to be soft and the crumbs, brown and crispy.

Serve the fried sweet potato and aubergine with the sauce, boiled rice and a green salad.

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Mediterranean Vegetables and Pasta

During a holiday a couple of years ago in Kefalonia, this became a firm family favourite. Delicious vegetables, fresh from the local market, prepared in olive oil with pasta and cheese. What’s not to love?

The vegetables are prepared a bit like a ratatouille and can be cooked in advance. A great dish to get you in the mood for summer now that spring is well and truly on it’s way.

Serves 4
1 onion – diced
1 clove garlic – crushed or finely chopped
1 courgette – diced
1 small red pepper – diced
1 aubergine – diced
1 red chilli – chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
250g passata
2-3 tomatoes – diced
200g mozarella
150g strong cheese – mature cheddar or gruyere
250g pasta – I used Farfalle but any shape will do
Basil leaves

Heat the oil in a large frying pan then add the onions and garlic. Cook gently for around 5 minutes then add the rest of the vegetables except the tomatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until everything starts to get tender; around 15 minutes or so. Now add the fresh tomotoes and cook until they break down, then add the passata. Season with salt and pepper, then shred a few basil leaves and add them. Cook down until the sauce is nice and thick and the tomatoes have disintegrated.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. You want the pasta to be quite firm as it will continue to cook once added to the sauce. Drain then mix in with the vegetable sauce.

Transfer to an oven dish, top with the cheeses and a drizzle of olive oil then bake in the oven at 200C until the sauce bubbles and cheese starts to brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with more shredded basil leaves and serve with a green salad, a fennel and white cabbage salad or a beetroot slaw.

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Beetroot and Celeriac Slaw (and a Baba Ganoush recipe)

It’s been quite a while since I posted an update here. With this post you get two for one. Two recipes in one post, but perhaps not for dishes that work together. The main reason for writing up both recipes in the same post is that I only have the one photo, with both dishes in it!

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The first is for a beetroot and celeriac slaw/salad. Whilst this dish uses beetroot and celeriac you can substitute any similar root vegetable (swede, turnip, fennel, or , though not strictly a root, kohl rabi), just shred them finely and use them raw. Beetroot does work well though both for colour and that earthy sweetness that compliments the creamy yogurt-based dressing

1 medium beetroot
½ head of celeriac
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons natural yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and black pepper

Peel the beetroot and celeriac then grate by hand or in a food processor. Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the grated vegetables and mix well until all the vegetables are coated in the creamy dressing.

The second recipe is for a baba ganoush, sometimes referred to as moutabal. I beautifully creamy, subtly smokey aubergine sauce or dip which can be served as part of a mezze. The smell of burnt aubergine skin is not particularly pleasant and can linger a little in your kitchen but you need to make sure the skin is blackened to get that smokey flavour.

1 large aubergine
1 tablespoon tahini
juice of ½ lemon
1 small garlic clove – crushed
salt
olive oil
sumac

Prick the skin of the aubergine with a skewer or knife then place directly over a gas burner on your cooker. If you don’t have gas, place the aubergine under the grill. Make sure you do prick it in several places else it will explode.

Turn the aubergine occasionally until the skin is well charred and the aubergine is soft and collapses when you try to pick it up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, scrape out the flesh and discard the burnt skin. Finely chop the flesh then add the lemon juice, tahini, garlic and enough olive oil to make a smooth paste (about 2-3 tablespoons). Season with salt, mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of ground sumac.

Baked Aubergines with Tomatoes

I found this recipe whilst having a recent cookbook clear out. I seem to accumulate cookery books, but only use a handful of recipes from each. Some books I have never used so I sometimes donate them to charity shops or leave them down in Cornwall for guests to use on rainy days. This recipe is taken from a magazine, but as the page was ripped out, I have no idea which magazine. Make sure to bake this until the aubergines are silky soft so they melt in your mouth. You could also add a little crumbled feta just before baking if you wish.

Serves 4
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium aubergines – cut in half along their length
1 onion – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
400g or so of ripe tomatoes – chopped
½ teaspoon sugar
Small bunch of parsley – chopped
1-2 teaspoons of tomoato puree diluted with 50ml or so of hot water

Preheat oven to 190C.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the aubergines and cover. Fry on both sides until softened. This takes about 15-20 minutes and keeping the lid on helps keep in the moisture. When done, transfer to a oven proof dish.

Return the pan to the heat and fry the onion gently until softened. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano and fry for a further 2-3 minutes. Now add the tomatoes, 100ml water and the sugar. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley then spoon the tomato mixture over the aubergines.

Pour the diluted tomato puree into the bottom of the dish, then bake for 45 minutes. Can be served hot from the oven or at room temperature.

Pancake Nidi

A very slight variation on Michela Chiappa‘s recipe from her Simply Italian series recently on Channel4. This dish is traditionally made using pasta sheets but Michela’s recipe uses pancakes instead to great effect.

The quantities below made nine Nidi – one per person is plenty as a starter or a light evening meal.

For the pancakes
1 cup plain flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
butter for frying

For the filling
250g tub ricotta
Handful of basil leaves, chopped
Small amount of lemon zest (I used zest from about ¼ of a lemon
125g mozzarella torn into pieces
1 red pepper – deseeded and cut into large chunks
½ red onion – sliced
1 small aubergine – sliced into 1cm thick pieces
2 small courgette – sliced into 1cm thick pieces
Drizzle of olive oil
30g parmesan cheese

For the tomato sauce
Splash of olive oil
The other half of the red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 red chili – finely chopped

Start by making the pancakes. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl to form a thinnish batter. You may need to add a little extra milk. Heat a large non stick frying pan. When very hot, add a small knob of butter, then about ½ cup of the batter and swirl around to cover the base of the frying pan. Fry for about 1-2 minutes, flip over and do another 1 minute on the other side. Remove from the pan and repeat. You should get five or six pancakes from the amount of batter depending on the size of your frying pan.

Now for the filling…
Heat a griddle until very hot. Fry the peppers, aubergine, onion slices and courgettes until browned and softened then leave to cool. If you don’t have a griddle you can roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so. When cool, roughly chop everything.

To assemble …
Lay the pancakes out on a clean tea towel to form a rough square two pancakes across and three down. If you only managed to make five pancakes from the batter then use 2½ down. Mix the ricotta and chopped basil and spread evenly over the pancakes. Tear the mozzarella and distribute over the pancakes too. Now spread the chopped vegetables and cover with some of the grated paremsan, keeping back a couple of tablespoons for later.

Now take one end of the tea towel and gently but firmly roll the pancake up into a long cylinder. Cut into slices about 3cm thick and lay on their side in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and add a little ground black pepper.

The sauce is simple. Heat the olive oil then add the onion, garlic and chili and fry until softened. Add the tomatoes, cover and leave to cook for a few minutes. Add a little salt and pinch of sugar and keep warm.

Heat the oven to 200C then put the pancakes in the oven for 10 minutes until warmed through and the cheese is melting.

Serve the pancakes with the sauce. I included some fried potato cubes as they go with the tomato sauce – a sort of patatas bravas, Italian, Spanish fusion.