This year is the first time I have grown many things, but the veg I think I'm most proud of (today at least) is my aubergine (eggplant) plant.
It was bought as a little seedling for me by The Gardener- who had warned me that he had never had success with them.
But I pleaded and wished & he surprised me with it one afternoon after he had been on a trip to one of the garden centres. My aubergine plant has since lived in the greenhouse.
It got off to a shaky start, I hadn't realised how thirsty they are, but with extra water in a saucer on the base of the pot, it has thrived.
And I can't tell you how superior home-grown aubergine tastes. It is just so much more flavourful..quite amazing.
So far I have had 3 good sized fruits from the plant, and as we draw to the end of September, there are another 3 on the plant that I have hopes that will ripen enough to eat shortly.
I love a good ratatouille, if done well, the sum is so much more than its parts, each flavour distinct, yet rounded, juicy and luscious. It takes time to make- I tend to make it whilst I'm creating another speedier dish for supper, leaving it to simmer slowly whilst we eat, then serving it up the next day once the flavours have had a time to become more acquainted with each other.
This is the way I make it.. it might not be 100% authentic, but it tastes good.. and that's what counts
- 1 decent sized aubergine- cut into large cubes
- 1 large or 2 small courgettes- cut into half moons
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 med- large red onion- diced
- approx 1 kilo tomatoes- chopped or 2 tins of chopped tomatoed in juice
- a big squeeze of (organic!) tomato paste approx 2 TBS(i use the kind that comes in tubes as you can use it to order without it getting mouldy)
- A red or green pepper
- a tbs paprika or mild chilli powder
- 1 bay leaf
- a sprig of rosemary
- a couple sprigs thyme
- a tsp oregano
- salt & pepper
- a glug of red wine if you like
- olive oil
- slick the chopped aubergine with olive oil, tumble into an oven-proof dish, bake in a moderate oven ( Gas mark 6 / 200 C/ 375 F) until squishy & a tiny bit brown on the edges-turning once. This will take about 20 mins. NOTE: I find this gives the best flavour to the aubergine, ensures it cooks all the way through (aubergine that isn't nicely cooked is NASTY), plus it doesn't end up completely oil-logged like it does when you fry it. It also has the advantage of being a step that is quite hands-free, allowing you to get on with the prep for everything else.
- Gently saute the onion in a tbs or so olive oil in a heavy based, large saucepan until translucent, & add the garlic & the tomato paste. Cook until the garlic is soft & the tomato paste is bubbling. (don't let it burn!)
- Add in the chopped pepper, cooking for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tomatoes- whether cooked or fresh, plus the herbs & paprika/chilli & bring up the heat for a few minutes until everything starts to bubble nicely.
- turn down the heat & let the tomatoes cook down for a bit- add the wine here if you are using it.
- Cook until the tomatoes are slightly reduced ..this will take around 20mins. At around this point you should 'suddenly' remember that you have aubergines in the oven. Take them out!
- Add in the courgettes- allowing them to almost cook through
- Finally- stir in the aubergines. Taste & add salt & pepper- allow to all all cook around for 5 mins or so. The sauce should be thick but juicy..
- Cover & leave to stand at least half an hour..Serve with salad, crusty bread or as part of a big feast.. Or leave until tomorrow..to make these!
- 1 egg per person ( obviously free range and organic- duh!)
- a grating of cheese - whatever hard cheese you have around
- In individual ramekins, put a ladlefull of ratatouille, then, make an indent & carefully crack an egg in.
- Sprinkle with cheese & a bit of salt & pepper
- Bake in a pre-heated oven for around 10 mins.. you want to set the whites but have runny yolk.
- Serve with a crunchy peppery salad, crusty bread & red wine!