My favourite time of year has arrived. Autumn rocks! Squash, Chard, Game, Pumpkins, Mushrooms, so many fab ingredients available and when you are feeding a bunch of hungry kids on a shoestring. All cheap and filling and versatile. Well ok all game isn’t that cheap, but rabbit is. I often chuck a bunny in a pot with red wine and baby onions and carrots. Served with mash and some kale sautéed with a few fennel seeds and some crushed garlic.
Halloween arrived and I spent the weekend at The Eastern Curve Garden in Dalston. It’s a 3 minute walk from my apartment and the kids love it there. Lola often takes herself up there when her brother and sister are driving her mad and she “needs some space away from these kids”. She is nine!
The Garden organised a pumpkin carving extravaganza. The kids carved their own pumpkin, I drank a couple of glasses of wine and chatted to my friend Chloe about her new venture next summer that I am totally excited to be part of. She is organising a midsummer Scandi Feast check out her website and come and join us for a weekend of wonderful food and cooking demos hosted by some fabulous chefs. Perfect. We then returned for the grand lighting of the pumpkins the next night. Unfortunately Rufus dropped his pumpkin which resulted in him having a total meltdown. He refused to adopt another one and we all had to leave before they lit them all up.
Rufus recovered from the trauma in time for us to bake some enormous muffin sized cupcakes for our lovely friend and manager at The Pub on The Park. It was his birthday party and leaving do. We made double chocolate cupcakes with salt caramel icing. They turned out perfect. I was happy too because my last bake for TPOTP was a disaster. Less said about that the better.
I leave you today with my recipe for Eggplant Parmesan. It’s an American Italian dish which takes a bit of time to prepare but it is worth the work. I made it this weekend at my lovely friend Sam’s house with her brood. We walked the kids for a couple of hours and assembled this delicious combination of breadcrumbed eggplant and freshly made baked tomato passata and a nutmeggy roux. It takes about an hour to prepare, half an hour in the oven and 7 minutes to be consumed by the plague of locusts that are our children. I leave you with a few pics including my neighbour Will’s fabulous game stew. Apologies for lack of photos of the Eggplant dish. I had to get it in the oven before one of the kids started chewing on my leg.
Have a wonderful week.
This recipe takes some time to assemble, yet it is worth it. A great alternative to the usual Sunday roast. You don’t have to make your own passata, we just had lots of tomatoes hanging around.
For the eggplant bit
- 6 aubergines – sliced lengthwise around 3mm thick
- 500g breadcrumbs
- 150g parmesan cheese
- 400g plain flour
- 4 eggs
- Big slug of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the passata
A shop brought one is totally fine too.
- 12 medium tomatoes
- 1 head of garlic, split into separate cloves unpeeled
- Large slug of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the Roux
- Big nob of butter – about 2 tablespoons
- Plain flour – same quantity as the butter
- 300 mils whole milk – give or take more or less
- A grating of fresh nutmeg
It’s a bit of a factory line to begin with but the repetitiveness is somehow comforting. I had to stop Sam from eating the breadcrumbed aubergine as they were disappearing faster then I was frying them.
If you are making the passata, then first throw all the ingredients into a roasting dish and cook for half an hour at 180C until the garlic is soft and the tomatoes are bursting at the seams. While that is roasting you can get on with frying off the slices of aubergine.
In 3 separate dishes place the flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Grate a little parmesan into the bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper. Season the flour too. Throw some olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Using one hand only (or you will gloop up both hands and it all turns into a mess) take a slice of aubergine, dip in the flour shaking off the excess, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat with all the aubergine and fry a batch at a time turning when each side is golden. Then set the slices aside on a large plate covered with kitchen towel. You may have to wipe out the pan half way through with kitchen towel and add a bit more olive oil as the aubergines tend to suck up the oil.
Next take your roasted tomatoes and place in a food processor with the blade. Squeeze out the garlic from its paper. Add those too the processor as well and whizz. Then check for seasoning and place in a saucepan and heat gently. If you feel you need a bit more quantity then add a tin or half a tin of tomatoes but make sure you cook the passata for 15mins or so to cook out he rawness of the added tomatoes.
Finally make the roux. Add the flour and butter to a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir thoroughly until it all comes together in a lump. Then slowly pour in a little milk. Stir until absorbed then repeat until all the milk has been incorporated and you get a mixture the thickness of custard, stir over the heat for a further 5 mins to cook the rawness of the flour. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg.
Right now you have all your elements ready you can assemble the dish. This is much like assembling a lasagne, just using the aubergine slices instead of pasta sheets.
In a large deep roasting dish. Add a ladleful of passata, then a layer of aubergine, then a ladleful of passata and a ladleful of roux, then grate some parmesan on the roux and add a layer of aubergine and repeat the process. Make sure the top layer finishes with the roux on top. Then give a really generous grating of parmesan. Place in the oven for half an hour at 180C until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve with a big salad. Heaven.