Category Archives: Aubergine

In a pickle?

After reading the post about pickled red onions from Frugal Hausfrau recently, I decided it was time for me to get in a pickle! But of course, it would have to be my way. So I filled a jar with sliced red onions, sliced garlic, coriander seeds & cumin seeds, and filled it with a pickling fluid of apple cider vinegar, salt and the tiniest pinch of sugar..

I left them in the fridge for several weeks, and then started to taste and experiment with them. What I liked the most was the pickled spices, so I filled a jar with mostly them too!

A typical pickling juice is vinegar boiled with some salt and sugar then poured over whatever you wish to pickle. Then it’s down to you to enhance it with whatever aromatics take your fancy. Apple cider vinegar is quite a gentle acid, and works well, but white vinegar works just as well. It all depends how sharp you like your pickles. 

I’ve also pickled lots of whole garlic cloves – and they turn blue! Which is meant to be a good thing – healthy blue food, who knew??? (See below)

Aside from eating my pickled onions with a meal, I’ve also added them to various concoctions…

This is a ‘salad’ of chopped fresh parsley and coriander with lots of the pickled red onions and garlic and whole spices, using some of the pickling liquid with olive oil to create the texture. 

Tasty with everything, including roasted cauliflower with added leaves, tahini and dried barberries, providing a pop of sweet against the acidity of the pickles.

Or atop roasted aubergine slices topped with a Greek yoghurt & ricotta dressing, topped with pul biber chilli flakes and extra roasted coriander seeds.

I also used some of the pickles as a marinade, mixed with olive oil and roasted cherry tomatoes above.

And some more with cooled roasted aubergine slices and added pickled garlic – see the blue garlic slices? 

I left this mix to brew for a couple of days before adding some of both creations to some chopped leaves, below, with added roasted seeds..

I’m definitely a pickling convert, and having them in the fridge proves very useful. You can pretty much pickle anything, whether raw or cooked, so…

….what will you pickle today?

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Smoky aubergine & lentil dip, preserved roasted red onion relish, and everything in between…

This week I made this lovely dip from Hanady’s blog, it’s made with gorgeous soft aubergine flesh and lentils – the recipe calls for green lentils, i used brown ones and they worked great. 

With the leftover lentils, I mixed them with chopped fresh coriander & parsley, garlic and spring onions, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and pomegranate molasses, and left them to marinade for a few hours. This is what I served some of the dip with, above, and then threw over some dried barberries, below..

Which I ate with grilled slices of courgette…

Do check out Hanady’s recipe, it’s lovely, as is all of her blog

With the leftovers of the leftovers I made myself a little platter of the aubergine and lentil dip, the lentil and herb salad, and I blended some of the herb and lentil mix with some yoghurt and tahini to form a third concoction…

And then the rest of the herb and lentil salad got added to some more chopped herbs and spring onions and quinoa…

Which I ate with some of the preserved roasted red onion relish…

….which brings me onto Laura’s excellent recipe

I love roasted red onions, and I love the idea of any relish, but not all of the sugar that they usually require. Laura’s recipe includes no sugar at all! Hurrah!!!!! It’s just the onions, salt, and apple cider vinegar. 

I’ve now made a couple of batches of this, and I will probably continually remake it as my stocks diminish. I’ve added the onions to everything: salads, dips, grains, veg, my husband has added it to his homemade chicken burgers and thrown some over pizzas, it’s so fab to have a jar of in the fridge. 

This week’s onions are so purple, the colour is lovely, last week’s were more red..

The slight amendments I’ve made to Laura’s recipe is that I roast my onions in a tiny drizzle of olive oil, uncovered, and keep them moving during the roasting time; then I chop them quite finely. I also scrape out all of the sticky bits of roasted onion from the pan into the mixture. But otherwise, it’s all thanks to Laura for this one 🙂

This adds to the collection of jars of goodies that I have in my fridge, always jars and jars of homemade goodness…

A shot of all of the jars of my creations in my fridge last week – I do love having a fridge full of possibilities!!! 

I hope you’ve had a great weekend, and have a great weekend to come. I’m going to take Hanady’s and Laura’s inspirations over to this week’s Fiesta Friday and share my leftover creations with this month’s Cook Once Eat Twice collection…

Ajvar sauce and friends…

It’s not news that I like making and eating sauces and dips and pastes, there is currently 10 jars of different ones in my fridge right now, and this week I’ve made a few new concoctions to my collection. As one lead to the development of another, then another, and so on, I thought I’d share them all at once. I’m also co hosting the weekly Fiesta Friday blog party this week with my lovely friend, and her great blog, Jhuls, so please do join us and see what everyone is bringing to the table this week..

So my saucy week all began with ‘ajvar’. Ajvar is historically a Serbian ‘salad’ made with roasted red peppers and aubergines, garlic and sometimes chilli; I realised I’ve virtually made this previously without realising that I was making somehing that exists with a name, I was just chucking things together one day…like you do! Then I saw this on Instagram and looked it up and decided to make my version of it.

The inclusion of the aubergine flesh to the sauce adds more texture than flavour – I have found this in some of my experiments, roasted aubergine flesh often adds a ‘whipped’ lightness to a sauce or dip, and of course adds a healthy fresh addition too 🙂 the sauce therefore tastes more of the lovely sweetness of the red peppers, and the finished texture is quite thick so can be used in a variety of ways: on toast topped with goats cheese screams out to me! 

Also, all of the recipes I read called for roasting and peeling the red peppers, which I did here, but next time I make it I will leave the skins on; I have found that the skins often add an almost emulsifying effect to sauces that I like. 

Ingredients 

4 red peppers (i used 2 long red and 2 red bell peppers because that’s what I had!)

2 small/medium aubergines

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Olive oil (some recipes have said 1/3 cup, I just poured a decent amount in, but probably not as much as that)

Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar 

Salt to taste

Chilli flakes (optional)

Method 

Heat oven to 200C

Place the peppers and aubergines (prick the skins first) on a baking tray and roast until the skins of the peppers are charred and the aubergines are completely soft to the touch

Place the peppers in a plastic bag to cool and sweat, this makes it easier to remove the skin

Once the aubergine and peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and stalks of all of them, and the seeds of the peppers

Add them to a blender with the garlic, a good amount of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt, and blend until smooth

Transfer to a saucepan and simmer over a very low heat for 20-30 minutes until thickened

Add salt to your taste. 

Add chilli flakes/powder as it cooks if you choose 

Either use it warm as a sauce, or transfer to a jar and allow to cool

NOTE: Mine definitely benefitted from developing its flavour more overnight and being used the next day

Of course, making ajvar started a range of ideas bubbling in my mind, and as I had a lot of carrots that needed using, I peeled and roasted them all, ate some with my dinner, and used the rest in some sauce ideas. Like this one, above, which basically followed the ajvar idea and quantities, just with carrots instead of peppers.

It is made of roasted carrots, roasted aubergine, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Aleppo chilli flakes & a pinch of salt, again left overnight to develop the flavour, and it worked very well! The aubergine flesh really lightens up the density of the root vegetables, and a squeeze of lemon juice is always good with carrots. I keep dipping a spoon into it quite happily 🙂 

As I had so many roasted carrots, I also created this sauce by blending roasted carrot, roasted red onion, roasted garlic, olive oil and some of my own harissa. 

And this one, which is made up of roasted carrots, roasted red onions, passata, olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, and a spice mix of ground roasted cumin seeds, roasted caraway seeds and roasted coriander seeds. 

I blended this with some added water but still kept it quite thick and ate some heated and topped with goats cheese, alongside some sweet potato wedges. I aim to use it as a sauce or spread, I’m sure it would make a tasty soup with added liquid. 

And so ends my collection of sauces from this week, I hope you have found one or some of them interesting. It’s just a case of chucking things together and seei what emerges really! 

Happy Friday and happy weekend 🙂 

Right, I’m heading over to Fiesta Friday to start reading as soon as it kicks off…

Luscious lunches…

It’s been a little while since I shared some of my lunches, so here’s a few to tempt your tastebuds…and maybe your eyes…

To start, here’s some roasted butternut squash wedges, drizzled with a sauce of chickpeas, kefir yoghurt, tahini & garlic; with a green sauce of avocado, parsley, coriander, kefir yoghurt, mixed roasted seeds (pumpkin, sunflower & linseeds), garlic, chilli, lemon juice & salt; and with a salsa of parsley, coriander, garlic, spring onions, chilli, roast cumin, olive oil & apple cider vinegar; with toasted pine nuts…

Or…baked aubergines loaded with my Mexican chilli sauce, topped with grated cheese, spring onions, chillies, soured cream and lovely, soft avocado…

A quick pan full of flavour made from a can of chopped tomatoes + several tablespoons of my own harissa plus a teaspoon or two of ras el hanout, an egg in the middle, a sprinkle of leftover Parmesan and a sprinkle of home roasted seeds…

Salad of roasted aubergines, chopped and mashed, skin and all, with finely chopped garlic, spring onions & chillies, olive oil & lemon juice, and roughly chopped parsley and coriander…

Plus I’ve been whizzing up various sauces and dips and pastes as usual…

I do like mixing up leftovers and concocting something completely new…this began life as homemade chermoula (fresh parsley, fresh coriander, garlic, sweet paprika, ground cumin, pul biber chilli flakes, olive oil & lemon juice), to which I added some defrosted peas and spinach; and then mixed with my leftover mutabal (aubergine, tahini, lemon juice, yoghurt, cumin & garlic), and it’s now a whole new level of GOOD!

Below is a preserved lemon and olive harissa…
Lunch anyone?

Tian time!

I’ve been slicing and stacking and playing with vegetables over the last week, and producing various versions of a ‘tian’. Not to be confused with a traditional ratatouille, which is often presented in the same way, my tians have included not the courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes sitting on a base of onions and garlic of a ratatouille, but my version based on whatever I had to hand! 

As is my way, I was already knee deep in making dinner for my boys when I decided to give a tian a go, so it was a bit of a rush job..


This was sliced aubergine, courgette and sweet potato sitting on a slick of one of my homemade Mexican chilli sauces. I put a lid on the pot and baked it for half an hour, then removed the lid, sprinkled over it all some spices and grated cheese and cooked it further..

And it was good!!! Maybe not very pretty, but very tasty.

The leftovers were even tastier the next day..

I tried again a few days later but this time with aubergine, sweet potato and tomatoes – and this one was even better. The added moisture of the tomatoes is definitely a winner..

I decided to line the slices up in a rectangular pan which worked just as well, even if it doesn’t look as pretty. I also baked it uncovered for the whole time and sprinkled a smaller amount of cheese over it all 10 minutes before it was finally removed from the oven..

It really is a winner, I’ll be making this more and more often!

I think they look great when you serve them up, definitely a great option for Christmas if you’re looking for a side dish or vegetable based main dish. You could always replace the cheese topping with something else, or just leave it off, for a vegan. And try serving it with a dip, sauce or homous.

If you’re going to have a go yourself:

I would allow an hour to bake the dish 

Try and slice everything thinly and of even thickness, you could use a mandolin or slicer if you have one, I don’t!

Slice up all of the your chosen vegetables and create piles

Then start by stacking them, holding them in your hand to create a starting stack, before sitting them into the cooking pot, then start adding the rest

Include tomatoes

Sit the slices on a bed of something with some flavour 

Try mixing up the vegetables 

Keep it as colourful as possible 

Always make enough to have leftovers!!! 

I’ve had lots of fun making these – and eating them 🙂

If you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope you had a great day. Now let’s join Fiesta Friday, with our lovely co hosts Julianna and Hilda, and see what everyone else is up to…

Luscious lunches…

I make a lot of food. A LOT.

Let me explain: I eat virtually every single meal that I ever eat at home, and I make every single part of those meals.  And I eat a lot!!

I might eat food that I haven’t made a MAXIMUM of twice a month; other than that, I only ever eat food that I have made myself. And I love it! I know exactly what’s going into my body, and I know that I’m going to enjoy my food, and that it’s going to nourish me in every possible way. (And actually, on the occasions that I do eat something that I haven’t made, I end up feeling like I’ve missed out, because I miss eating my own food!)

I don’t ever ‘grab a sandwich’ or open a pot of soup or any kind of packet; I eat meals I can take time over, time to make and time to eat. I make versions of past dishes, versions of elements of dishes, new dishes, experiments, I use lots of leftovers, I make make make all the time.  I have a lot of food preparation happening in my kitchen constantly, for me and my boys. I routinely cook a couple of different grains at a time and have them available in the fridge; I endlessly roast vegetables to use once cooked and to create leftovers; I make sauces, dips, spice mixes, marinations, doughs, salads, chillis, curries, the list goes on…and a big part of this is because I can, I have the time, and because I want to. I spend a lot of time cleaning my kitchen too!

I also take a lot of photos of my food! Instagram is great for sharing those dishes daily, but not everyone is on Instagram and I like to share them on here too, in the hope that I may provide ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I wonder if each dish constitutes a post of their own, but then I think they’re too simple, hence why I share collections of dishes, which is what I am doing again today. And I’ve decided to call this, and future, collections ‘luscious lunches’ as these are typically my lunch dishes.

I am also co hosting Fiesta Friday today, along with Michelle from O Blog Off, and look forward to the huge amounts of weekly inspiration that I’m sure I will find there 🙂 

So, let me show you some recent dishes from my kitchen…there’s been a lot of Levantine and Middle Eastern flavours recently…

Chunks of carrot and sweet potato, steamed, then finished in a pan with coconut oil; with a version of chimichurri made with lots of verjus instead of vinegar, and added crushed roasted hazelnuts. 

Leftover roasted aubergines as per my previous post, with tomatoes and chopped parsley, and a version of chermoula, and toasted slivered almonds. 

Wedges of butternut squash, roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and dukkah, with a sauce of yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice & pomegranate juice, topped with fresh coriander and pomegranate seeds.

Leftover freekeh and couscous topped with leftover roasted carrots from one meal that became…

…this lunch, topped with sumac, tahini sauce, dried barberries, toasted slivered almonds & pistachios.

Couscous with parsley, coriander, dukkah, toasted almonds & dried barberries, with a dressing of lemon juice & olive oil.

The above salad eaten with a salad of cooked carrot mashed with herbs, tabil spice mix, tahini & lemon juice.

Cauliflower roasted with olive oil & hawaayij spice mix, with freshly made homous.

Roasted butternut squash slices, topped with a thinned homous & toasted nuts, with baby plum tomatoes and a salad of aubergine, garlic, chopped parsley, tahini & lemon juice.

Couscous with roasted butternut squash, red onions & garlic. 

Carrot and herb salad.

A pan full of red onion, garlic and tomatoes, cooked in coconut oil, with several spoonfuls of my Mexican chilli and cocoa sauce, avocado, egg and grated hard goats cheese. 

And this dish at the start of this post, aubergine, tomatoes, chopped herbs, freekeh, and homous

Lots of fresh vegetables, and goodness, and versions of versions, and LOTS of flavour! I don’t make food without flavour!!!

So that was a view of the past couple of weeks, I hope you found it interesting. 

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, and don’t forget to visit Fiesta Friday x

Perfectly cooked aubergine…

As an aubergine lover, I believe you can’t ever go wrong with aubergine in a dish…however, I do know that not everyone would agree with me, and often that is because they’ve tried aubergine and not liked it, which is usually because the aubergine has been badly cooked. And by badly cooked, I mean either UNDER cooked, or dripping in oil 😦 

Aubergine that has NOT been cooked properly is NOT nice! The texture of properly cooked aubergine should be soft and melt in your mouth; uncooked aubergine will remain hard and slightly chewy and not at all tasty, verging on bitter. The trick is to ensure that you allow enough time to really cook aubergine well.

Aubergine cooked on a barbecue is often one of the worst culprits as far as I’m concerned, I’ve seen chunks of aubergine threaded onto skewers alongside peppers and onions, and it’s never cooked well. The peppers and onions take so much less time to cook, that the poor aubergine doesn’t get a chance to catch up. My advice: cook them separately!! 

Likewise, if you find lovely chunks of aubergine in a dish like curry/stew/ratatouille and it’s not cooked, it’s such a disappointment, especially for an aubergine lover like me. In this scenario, I would consider pre-cooking the aubergine, which is what I did recently to make this gorgeous aubergine tikka masala curry

These aubergine chunks were marinated and roasted until lovely and soft, before being added to the sauce.

So good!

So my message is: please be sure to cook your aubergine well, and to this end, today I am sharing with you my current favourite way of preparing aubergine. This is how I produced these lovely aubergine slices below..

There is an assumption that to really cook aubergine well, you need lots of oil. 

This is not true.

Aubergine is like a sponge and really soaks up oil, so if you do cook aubergine slices or chunks in lots of oil, it will merely hold onto it and fill your mouth with oil when you bite into it – yuk! Use of some oil is good for cooking aubergine, it just doesn’t have to be drowning in it. I usually use an olive oil spray when roasting or baking aubergine to control the amount I use. 

For these slices, I cut the aubergines into slices between 0.5cm and 1cm thick. If you slice them too thin, they risk burning and becoming papery.

I laid the slices on a rack sitting on an oven sheet, sprayed each slice with olive oil…

I cooked these in the oven, heated to 200c, until they looked like this..

They remain uncoloured on the underneath, but that doesn’t take anything away from the finished effect. 

On the rare occasion that I haven’t eaten the whole lot straight out of the oven, I’ve used these slices chopped up in salads..

Or to scoop up salad..

Or to create a plate of layered loveliness..

These slices have been spread with homous, then topped with beautiful roasted red onion and garlic and topped with toasted nuts. 

I hope I have inspired you in a new way to cook aubergines, and news ways to enjoy them. I’ll be taking these along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Julie and Linda. Please do join us 🙂

I’m also going to take this post along to Corina’s Cook Once, Eat Twice party, and add it to my own Pimp Your Veg collection. 

For now I’ll leave you to drool over those gorgeous roasted and caramelised red onions and garlic…