You know when you have guests for dinner and you’ve got one small side dish in mind and you sit and think : “Is there really going to be enough food?” (or is that only me?)
I hate the thought that people might, possibly, remotely leave my table wishing that there had been just a little more food.
I have zero Italian heritage, but like an Italian Mama I feel the need to “feed people” and that means “feed ‘em good“. My nagging fear wouldn’t let go… yep I won’t be happy until I’ve made a second side-dish to go with the lasagne and Piedmentese Peppers of yesterday’s post.
I was of course only slightly (ha!) influenced by watching chef and cookbook writer Simon Hopkinson’s television programme on the BBC called “The Good Cook” …come on, the recipe is easy and has garlic, olive oil, parsley and feta cheese in it. If that’s not bait on the hook and reel me in, I don’t know what is.
Add to this that I’d just given myself a challenge in my 101 Things in 1001 Days:
35. Find and try out 5 aubergine recipes (that’s “eggplant” to some of you)
So this is how I find myself adding aubergines to the shopping list and making: “Grilled Aubergines with olive oil, garlic, parsely and feta cheese“ to go with our meal. As with yesterday’s post, I have copied the recipe below and added in my own working method below as well as step by step photos of how I made the recipe.
4 long, thin-skinned purple aubergines (alternatively use the ordinary plump, pear-shaped variety available from most supermarkets)
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
handful parsleyleaves, finely chopped
5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a little sea salt and black pepper
150g/5oz feta cheese
l lemon, for serving
Preheat the grill to high.
Run a small, sharp knife round the top of the aubergine, 1cm/½in or so below the stalk and only just cutting through the skin; then make four evenly spaced, similarly shallow cuts, along the length of the aubergine right down to the end.
Grill the aubergines for about 20 minutes, turning every 5-7 minutes or so, until evenly cooked with charred skin, and until the aubergine feels soft, but not too collapsed within. In the case of the purple aubergines, the skin will also have turned a dull brown colour. Transfer to a large, oval, white plate and allow to cool for two minutes.
Peel away the aubergine skin in four long, narrow sheets using a small knife. Without cutting right through the stalk end, cut the aubergines in half lengthways and gently prise apart until you have two horizontal halves remaining attached at the top end
Mix the garlic and parsley with the olive oil until well combined and spoon the mixture over the aubergine. Season lightly with salt (not too much – the cheese is salty anyway) and pepper, and crumble the feta cheese over the top. If liked, trickle over more olive oil to finish.
Serve warm, or at room temperature with lemon squeezed over.
So… the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed already that I totally forgot to include an ingredient: the parsley.
Being on crutches gives me limited access to the lower depths of the refriderator, so first it was a case of “out of sight, out of mind“ and secondly I’m still on strong pain relief and my concentraion span is not at it’s best at the moment. I made these alongside the pepper recipe and was so tired that even though I read ” parsley” over and over in the recipe it never occured to me that I hadn’t actually used any.
Yeah, “Duh”…. What I did do, was to make the feta, garlic (I minced mine and doubled the amount) and some olive oil in advance, put some plastic wrap over the top and put it in the fridge for easy adding later when the aubergines were cooked. Then I went to bed and had a sleep.
So… fast forward to later in the day… The oven is on Grill wound up as high as it will go, as it the top oven rack and ack! my aubergines aren’t cooking well at all… they are cooking but realllly sloooow. Since foodie friends have come for dinner and one extra visitor has let us know that she’s running late, we panic not and try and work out a better plan to get these suckers cooked. Changing from “Grill” to “Oven” seems to work well, so we keep with that and after a further 20 minutes of turning every 5 minutes my aubergines and getting are back on track and nicely cooked.
My oven is old but a top element is a top element is it not? so while I have no clue what went wrong with this step, I at least know how to avoid it ( with my oven) next time around.
From there on it we just followed the recipe (ok, accidently sans parsley) and one of my foodie friends helped with peeling off the skins. Yikes these are HOT to handle and peel so wearing oven gloves to assist were a must… lastly we lavished on the feta mix and brought it to the table.
Himself had been non committal about aubergines due to many previous bad experiences with them in his travels, so was prepared to “grin and bare” this recipe, but shocked himself because he loved it! In fact it was his favourite part of the evening meal and he’s mentioned twice already that I need to keep this recipe please, as he wants to make it again!
Therein lies a lesson for us all: We might often think we dislike a vegetable, but maybe we just haven’t met the right recipe yet… trying “just one more time” might be the time we hit the jackpot and find a gem like this.
Clearly I have to thank Simon Hopkinson not only for a fantastic recipe, but also one that finially conquors my fear of cooking aubergines and one which has converted Himself to thinking that these might not be half bad eating after all. Cheers!
As with the peppers recipe, there were requests for the recipe from guests as well and the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/grilled_aubergines_with_73271 was duely sent from the BBC website.
Such is Himself’s enthusiasm that I have a sneaky suspicion that aubergines might somehow be on our shopping list for a repeat of this recipe next week too.