Last Saturday I needed food to warm me up and set me right. As wrong as it might seem to be craving curry just two days after midsummer’s day, the rain and grey were putting heat into my mind. So I bought myself a shiny aubergine…
Back at home, while snacking on a bit of Oisin Farmhouse goats’ cheese on seeded rye bread (also both from the Coop), I had a browse through three of my favourite cookbooks: Yotam Ottonlenghi’s Plenty, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian & Sally Butcher’s Veggiestan for some ideas. (That’s Sally with her book…)
Then I put those aside and cooked.
I softened some shallots in a bit of butter and rapeseed oil, added some grated ginger, sliced garlic and red chilli and various spices from the Patel gift set a friend gave me. Together with a booklet of (mostly meat-based) recipes, the set includes various ground and whole spices and several spice blends or ‘masala’. I wanted something tangy so went for a generous pinch each of ground cumin and coriander and twice that of their tandoori masala blend. I cooked those gently for a couple of minutes until it was smelling really good and then I tipped in the guts of a tin of chopped tomatoes, spooning out the flesh and leaving behind some of the excess juice.
While this cooked away, I roasted slices of the aubergine drizzled in a little rapeseed oil, grated half a cucumber into a colander set above a bowl to drain and cooked off some quinoa (I could have gone for rice but quinoa ticks the box as both a grain-like accompaniment and a source of protein). Once the tomatoes had lost their rawness, I added a little more grated ginger, to be sure to have an upfront ginger heat as well as the background flavours. (This is something Irish chef Paul Flynn recently said he often does for one-pot dishes to ensure layers of flavour, adding the likes of garlic as a base and a final seasoning.)
Finally I finely chopped some fresh mint and mixed this with the drained cucumber and some natural yoghurt, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Then I built myself a little bowl of nutty quinoa, tangy sauce, roast aubergine and minty raita, and tucked in. (I was too hungry to take a photo, sorry!) Warming, cheering and wholesome, it was just what I had been wanting.
And what of my leftover cucumber water?
With the sun dancing in and out just enough for it to feel like a sort of summer again, I mixed myself up a salad of kiwi and galia melon and dressed it with the cucumber juice, a small squeeze of lime and a swirl of Highbank Original Irish Orchard Syrup. This apple-based syrup that is one of my favourite condiments going, being an Irish-made sweetener made from indigenous produce that brings extra flavour while it sweetens. The dressing worked really nicely, the cucumber giving a lovely fresh lift to the melon. I reckon it’ll taste even better tomorrow.
Without the kiwi and lime the same salad would probably make a great accompaniment to Parma ham, or diced very small along with a tart green apple could work really well with some smoked mackerel too. I’ll be trying it again as the mood takes me.
p.s. for those of you who really prefer to cook with recipes, here’s what you need to make the above:
for the roast aubergine with gingered tomatoes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3 shallots, finely chopped
2–3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon Patel’s tandoori masala
for the minty raita
1/2 cucumber, grated and drained
2 handfuls mint, finely chopped
2–3 generous tablespoons natural yoghurt
for the melon and kiwi salad with cucumber, lime and apple syrup dressing
1 small galia melon
3–4 tablespoons liquid drained from grated cucumber
1 very small wedge of lime, or to taste (go easy)
Highbank Orchard syrup, to taste (about half a teaspoon)