aubergine and sweet potato summer stack

Even though the in-between parts of seasons are problematic for guessing the weather forecast or planning a temperature-appropriate outfit, they are a great for a varying abundance of produce.

Unless you’re going to buy your produce imported or from a greenhouse, things that I try and steer away from, this recipe really is only viable while aubergines are in season. Even though it is warm and roasted, there are so many fresh and raw elements that it makes sense to limit it to the warmer months.

My aubergine and sweet potato stack is a dish stuck somewhere in between a roast vege salad and a plate of raw greens… in a good way! Layers of soft and warm eggplant, crisp discs of sweet potato and spinach leaves full of crunch, topped off with sweet smoked bell peppers, soft crumbly feta and capers for a salty pop.

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It’s so easy; the hardest part is stacking it all up without the tower toppling over!

Begin by roasting an entire red bell pepper under the grill of an oven, or, if you’re feeling dangerous, on a gas stove element. Roast on a high heat until the skin begins to blacken and blister; this will take a while but keep an eye on it and rotate it for even charring.

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Use this time to slice an aubergine into 1cm thick slithers, and one large sweet potato into 2cm thick discs. Getting a uniform consistency with the sweet potato will be difficult because they are such a beautifully ugly vegetable (one of the reasons I love them so!), but having nice even slices will make the stacking part a bucket load easier!

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Drizzle them in olive oil, turn the oven to bake, lower the temperature to 180°C and switch them the with pepper. If possible, bake the vegetables on different trays and place the aubergine on a lower shelf inside the oven. By arranging the trays like this, the eggplant slices will slowly bake without crisping, and by the time the sweet potato is cooked tender and golden, the aubergine will have garnered a soft texture; not too crisp but no longer tough and chewy.

Flip each rondelle after about 15 minutes and continue baking for a further 20 or until they look like they’re done.

In the meantime, slice the top off the smoky bell pepper and peel off the skin so you are just left with the tender red flesh. Slice into thin slithers and that component is complete!

Wash the leaves of one bunch of spinach and tear the leaves into manageable bite size segments. Fun fact: tearing the leaves, instead of cutting them, stops them from browning. Crumble some feta and once the eggplant and sweet potato are cooked, you’re ready to plate up.

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Begin with two mountains of spinach, on separate plates and pile alternate layers of eggplant, sweet potato and the remaining spinach with the utmost care – hold your breath so the tower doesn’t collapse if you think that’ll help.

Once you have exhausted your vegetable piles, dress with the snakes of red pepper and crumbled feta, top with a teaspoon of capers, a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of pepper.

Serve with a congratulatory glass of red wine – you deserve it!

chippie tuesday

On several occasions I have entered into the debate of whether or not polenta is an ingredient that should be celebrated or scorned; usually debating on the celebratory side. While today’s recipe is not exactly directly linked with polenta, there are definitely some polenta-inspired elements to it.

Like the majority of human beings who have ever eaten polenta chips, I am a fan. Simple as that. In fact, I am a fan of almost every kind of chip; which is why I have a whole series of chip-orientated posts in the pipeline- stay tuned! I might even go as far as saying I could devour a sizzling bowl of polenta chips faster than their French fry equivalents.

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During one of my many episodes of craving, fantasising and googling unique food combinations, my mind drifted to roast pumpkin, then to polenta fries, and then back to pumpkin. Before I knew it, my brain had fused the two together and right in front of me was a scribbled and makeshift recipe for pumpkin polenta fries.

This recipe is an expansion of a simple pot of pumpkin puree, I had no real idea about what I was doing, or if it was going to work out- but that is how most of my creations begin! I added half a cup of milk and half a cup of polenta to the mashed equivalent of a small pumpkin, along with a knob of butter, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. I wanted to harness the milk’s creaminess and the polenta’s absorption to create a firm mixture, the nutty flavour and texture was an added bonus!

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Spread into a thick slab on a cling-filmed baking tray, I resisted the urge to eat the mixture then and there, instead, enjoying the sweet scented steam while it cooled. The next day dragged on; all I could think about was the bright orange mixture chilling in my refrigerator. Alas, I knew that this was a necessary step for the mixture to hold its shape.

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That night, I sliced the mixture into thick fingers and carefully removed them from the tray. I coated them in flour with a hint of cayenne pepper, which I love because of the tingly warmth that it gives you.

Not one to ever deep fry anything, I oven baked them like my churros, at 180°C for 45 minutes, rotating them every 10 minutes. The timing on one oven is always going to differ from the next, so it is best to keep an eye on them and leave them until they are a shade that you find most desirable.

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Unlike your average Kiwi, I detest tomato sauce, so instead I served mine with a quick Greek yoghurt sauce- yoghurt, lemon juice and ground cumin. And then I ate them in bed; paradise.

 

quirky quiche (or another q adjective?)

  Next week will mark three months since I arrived in France, wow it has gone so quickly! The other day I realised that in those three months I had not yet eaten a French quiche, a dish that I have always automatically thought of when I think of French cuisine.

Luckily, this was about to change as I am the only one in the apartment for the next week weeks and was given a carton of eggs the other day, and I don’t eat eggs by themselves and quiche is an easy way to use up a lot of eggs in one go.

There are literally a million different variations of quiche (okay, maybe not literally but there are a lot) so the first step after acquiring your eggs is to decide what else your going to fill it with. So I was bumbling around on the internet looking for a recipe that would use the ingredients I had waiting to be used in my fridge and I found a recipe for a ‘Rainbow Quiche’ which 1) looked delicious, 2) mainly used most of the things I had, and 3) was obviously a sign that this was meant to be a celebration quiche to celebrate the overturning of DOMA and Prop 8. And boy, this sign was delicious!

As you can probably guess, a Rainbow Quiche is a quiche full of colourful ingredients so feel free to pick and choose whatever vegetables you want. The recipe called for three small capsicums, each of different colours and finely diced, half an onion some broccoli and a cup each of spinach leaves and sliced mushrooms. I personally had a big issue with this part of the recipe, why measure mushrooms in cups? You can’t go and buy a cup of mushrooms or measure it out, so why say it? By the way, a cup of mushrooms is two medium sized ones.

I could not find any spinach at the grocery store and I hate broccoli more than I hate anything in the world, so I omitted these ingredients and replaced them with a diced tomato and half of an avocado. I also only had two kinds of capsicums so I switched the orange one for 100 grams of lardons (bacon bits) because they are almost the same colour and they are yummy.SAM_0803_edited

So here is what you need to do to make your Rainbow Quiche Lorraine…

Line a pie dish with savoury pastry, shape it nicely, poke it all over with a fork and put in in the refrigerator to chill.

In a large pan or skillet, heat a bit oil or butter (depending on what vegetables you plan on using, or really to your own preference) and add the onions. I also added some crushed garlic because I love it, and have recently discovered all of its amazing nutritional properties. If you are using lardons then add them when the onions start becoming slightly translucent. You know that the lardons are cooking nicely when they start to release all of their juices, the onions will start to absorb this and become full of flavour!

Next add whatever vegetables you have decided to use, sauté them until they are tender before seasoning with salt and pepper and some dried herbs. I added the tomato after I did this so they hadn’t gone too mushy when I assembled the quiche. I also didn’t add the avocado, along with a few sprigs of fresh parsley until just before putting the vegetables into the pastry. Remove the mixture from the pan and leave on a plate to cool slightly, this is so it doesn’t melt the pastry. I almost stopped right here, because it already looked amazing and I wouldn’t have minded eating it just like this!

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The recipe that I was loosely following called for 6 eggs and 1 3/4 cups of milk or demi crème whisked together with a dash of salt but I was scared that this would be too much for my little dish, and I also had a lot of vegetables so I used 5 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk knowing that I could always whisk another egg if I didn’t have enough. Spoon the vegetables into the pastry mold and spread evenly. Cover with a cup of grated cheese, basically any kind will do; mozzarella, nacho cheese, I wish that I had used crumbled feta but instead I used Emmental. I would probably advise not to use this as it didn’t go nice and gooey like I would have liked but rather went all crusty and crunchy.

Pour the milky egg mixture over top and place in the oven for 45 minutes on about 180°C. It is lucky that I used only 5 eggs because the mixture was this close to overflowing as I placed it in the oven!

You know it’s ready when you can stick a knife in it and pull it out without any egg sticking to it, it should be nice and golden on top. Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving. I served mine with a nice rainbow coloured salad. And ate half of it in one sitting, but it is supposed to be 8 servings, I guess for people with no appetites. Enjoy!SAM_0809_editedSAM_0814SAM_0817_edited