Category Archives: Aubergine

Aubergine boats…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I love aubergines cooked whole, whether over fire on a barbecue, under a grill, in an oven or over a gas burner. The flesh becomes meltingly soft, it is truly the best way to cook aubergines.

Sometimes I remove the skin to use the flesh in a salad or dip, but I don’t like the waste, so I usually eat the whole thing.

However you choose to cook your aubergines whole, do remember to prick the skin otherwise they will explode!

If I don’t chop the aubergines up for various uses, I like to use them whole and fill them with whatever I have to hand..

This one was filled with quinoa and a sauce made of fresh spinach, garlic, almond butter, buttermilk, lemon juice and courgette, and topped with cumin seeds, Aleppo chilli flakes and sesame seeds. On the side is a grilled red pepper dip.

This one is filled with more quinoa mixed with chopped herbs, garlic, spring onions, spices, olive oil, lemon juice, and drizzled with tahini.

Whatever you fill your whole aubergine with, ensure that it is packed full of flavour and not too dry, this will then seep into the soft flesh and create a whole edible wonder ๐Ÿ™‚

Hot or cold, whole aubergines work as the perfect carrier for my foods…happy weekend…I think it’s long overdue that I visit Fiesta Friday and say hello to my fellow bloggers….do pop over and see what great food other bloggers are sharing…

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How to eat as a vegetarian…

A friend of ours has recently decided to stop eating meat. That sounds simple, but if you’ve always eaten meat, it’s not as simple as it sounds. If you’ve never really thought too hard about what you eat, it could be a complete shock to the system. Our friend is definitely finding that to be the case.

Knowing that I am vegetarian, he has picked my brain a few times, and it has made me think that it could be an interesting post for anyone making the same change to their diet.

Removing meat means losing vital nutrients in your diet, all of which are easily replaceable as long as you know what you’re doing. The main one is obviously protein, but also vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, iron, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. These can all be easily found in vegetarian food choices. Eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds are your friends, along with other ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily think of like beans, legumes/pulses, some grains, lentils, oats which all contain protein. Other sources are listed below:

Vitamin B12: eggs and dairy are the best options

Vitamin D: is very difficult to find as a food source; I take cod liver oil tablets which give me omega 3 fatty acids, as well as much needed vitamin D

Iron: try legumes, nuts, seeds, prunes, raisins, kale, broccoli, spinach – eat with a source of vitamin C for maximum effect as it aids absorption of the iron (sweet potato is a great option for this, as it’s packed with vitamin C)

Zinc: whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, lentils

Omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, also walnuts, soybeans, olive oil, hemp oil

*Many of these tips can also be applied to a vegan diet, removing the eggs and dairy

If you’ve always eaten meat, a typical meal would have no doubt been built around the meat portion: you start with the meat, and then add the extras, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice etc. When you don’t eat meat, or fish, or both, you have to think differently, unless you choose meat replacement products like quorn or tofu of course. I don’t eat those things so my meals are created differently. And you can’t just replace a portion of meat with a similar size portion of cheese: imagine a chicken breast sized piece of cheese?! Heart stopping stuff!!

Vegetarian proteins are not always lean proteins like some meat, you need to be aware of portion sizes. Nuts and seeds are great and provide so much goodness, but you can’t eat great piles of them any more than you can full fat cheese without it starting to affect your waistline.

If you are suddenly introducing your digestion to more vegetables, and legumes, than it’s used to, it may cause bloating and wind. In fact, I would suggest that you expect it, then it won’t be a surprise! All that extra fibre will take a bit of getting used to.

A lack of some of the key nutrients might make you feel achey, and it may be worth at some point requesting a blood test to see if you do have any deficiencies, or low levels, of any nutrients to help you understand what you need to boost.

People think that vegetarianism, or veganism, is a way to lose weight; the opposite can often be the case. It’s very easy to end up with very carbohydrate heavy meals. Think about how you filled your plate when you ate meat and keep the amounts of carbohydrate to a similar amount and fill up on salad and less heavy vegetables. I’m told that meat protein is very filling, so your meal now needs to include different filling foods without it being all carbs.

Becoming vegetarian just takes a bit of planning and understanding until it becomes second nature, which to me is all part of the fun of it, but to others may be new and daunting. Do lots of reading and research and read great blogs (like mine!) and other people’s experiences. Our bodies are all different, but the basics will be the same.

I make everything that I eat, but that’s my choice because I have the time, the inclination, and I love it! I love knowing exactly what is in the food that I eat, and I can manage exactly what my body needs. If that is not your inclination, or you don’t have the time, there are a lot of vegetarian choices available in supermarkets and restaurants nowadays. I have no interest in eating ‘meat replacement’ foods, they’re just not my thing, but if you do want to try them, I believe they are often fortified with helpful nutrients for vegetarians.

Becoming vegetarian really doesn’t have to be hard work.

If you are worried that you’re going to be hungry without meat, or fish, it really isn’t the case. You may feel a different kind of fullness, you may even notice that you don’t feel as ‘heavy’ or sluggish after meals because your body is no longer working hard to process the meat protein. But hungry, no, I never go hungry, ever!!!

That may all seem a lot to take in, so let me give you some ideas of what I do…

*I pack out my morning porridge with flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts as well as the oats and lots of spices

*I ensure that I include a source of protein in every meal, whether I top dishes with cheese, low fat cream cheese, goats cheese, chopped nuts, seeds or a swirl of plain yoghurt – I eat a lot of natural yoghurt because I love it which helps – whether I include quinoa, a magic grain packed with protein, whether I add dollops of homous or other dips

*I use ground almonds/almond flour in place of breadcrumbs where I can (I also prefer the flavour), or as a thickener in sauces or curries

*Tahini is wonderful! Tahini is a sesame seed paste packed full of goodness. Use it to make homous (another winner in the nutrition stakes), use it in place of cream, swirl it through soup, eat it from the pot! (Sparingly though!!)

*Homous really is your friend, it provides so much in one perfect dip. And you can eat it in so many ways, not just with carrots stick or pieces of pita bread

*Nut butters are great, again you can add them to so many recipes; for example, make a batch of bean chilli and add a spoonful of peanut butter

*Eggs baked in tomato sauces are a godsend – the perfect fast food

*Or eggs cooked in vegetable hashes (top right)

*Another idea that I’ve read but haven’t tried yet, it using chopped walnuts as a mince replacement in things like bolognese sauce or ragu

*Portobello mushrooms are noted for a having meaty texture and often provide a satisfying feel in the mouth for those missing meat

*Bacon alternatives can be made with slices of sweet potato, or indeed aubergine

*Chorizo flavours can be created with spices, particularly smoked paprika and chilli powder

If you are deciding to remove meat, and maybe fish, from your diet, I would definitely recommend to phase it out, going ‘cold turkey’ could put your body into shock and create discomfort. Maybe start by removing red meats, then poultry and white meats, then fish etc.

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you great luck, and I am always available if I can assist with any ideas…

*If you know someone who might find this useful, please do pass it on. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

I am sharing my tips with everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by Lily and Alisa

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?

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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…