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Aubergines in tomato sauce and a Food Odyssey

May 1, 2010

I just visited a blog where someone is posting at least one meal they have eaten each day for a whole year.  What honesty this takes, what pressure.  While I’m similarly obsessed with all things foodie, to reveal your whole diet, warts and all, takes extreme courage and dedication.  The monotony of most families’ menus would test even the most erudite blogger – how would you put an interesting spin on the shepherd’s pie you’ve had for the third time this month?  And would the tail start to wag the dog?  Would you decide against pilchards on toast and order in a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel instead for photographic purposes?

A Food Odyssey blogsiteA Food Odyssey is a little time capsule about the economic and cultural eating decisions of a young single girl living in Abu Dhabi.  She eats out a lot and her brisk restaurant reviews are great, “the sushi was fresh, unfortunately the service was stale”.   Elysia Smith’s comfort foods are revealing of her American background and seem very alien to me; I dare say she would find my gravitation to Marmite on toast completely bizarre too.  So I’ve put it to the test – just for one week.  Here, being brutally honest, is what me (and my family) ate – at least one meal a day. Our 7 days of mastication and ingurgitation:

What we ate on Sunday

Sunday

Day One – The week starts on a Sunday in the Middle East.  Lunch was left-overs from the night before inspired by a visit to the organic farm shop.  Tomato, basil and mozzarella salad (the basil is bolting in my garden).  I blended handfuls of basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoning to make a bright, fresh, green dressing.  Farm fresh potatoes in a salad dressed with half mayo (from a jar) and half creme fraiche and my own garlic chives.  Middle-Eastern-style aubergines in a tomato sauce (see recipe below) and ciabatta dipped in oil and vinegar.  A gourmet supper was required to top this.  I’d made the Tupperware chorizo earlier in the week – another fabulous recipe from River Cottage Every day.  I used it in KP’s (husband) favourite meal – Paella de Cerdo con Chorizo y Espinaca. I usually use the salami type which is all I can get.  This worked really well and what should have served 6 was polished off by four of us.

Tomato and olive sauce

Monday

Day two – immediately went down-hill.  I was rushing off to a concert so threw a family meal together from whatever was in the fridge.  I made something like a spaghetti puttanesca but without the capers or anchovies (which my philistine family hates).  I had a few punnets of very ripe organic cherry tomatoes which I softened with some chopped garlic. I threw in the last of the aubergine and tomato sauce left-overs plus some oven-dried tomatoes, a bit of passata, some black olives, a dried chilli and a handful of basil at the end of some slow bubbling and reducing.  I didn’t even have time to take a pic of it on the plates with the pasta.  I have to admit to loving this kind of food – thank goodness there was a bit left over for me when I crept in later.

Crudites

Tuesday

Day three – I’m already in awe of Elysia of A Food Odyssey.  She must have great self-discipline and a very good memory.  A quick word about pesto.  What did we do before we could reach for that versatile green stuff in a jar?  It’s the nearest I get to convenience food.  I love the real stuff and make it a lot at this time of year but my enthusiasm for it is not shared by children and KP.  My daughter slathers the jar stuff in sandwiches and it was my stand-by supper tonight.  Revealing now what a negligent mother I am, I hot-footed it out the door to a lovely gathering under a clear sky and full moon with delicious nibbles (pictured).  Now hummous is a whole posting in itself….

Cereal in a bowl with a packet

Wednesday

Day four – I can get quite passionate about breakfast.  Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on Christmas morning, creamy porridge eaten in the depths of winter (click here to watch the winner of the Golden Spurtle make the ultimate porridge) and of course the full English – crisp bacon, runny fried eggs (no easy-over for me), field mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and toast is my preferred combination.  But most days it’s toast or muesli and I’m really into Dorset cereals at the moment (but NOT a fan of cereals in general – see this link to know why).  Their website is a great source of little interesting quirky blogs too.  I failed dismally in making home-made croissants today (a long story). Pasta again for supper – spaghetti carbonara with a salad – is that a bad thing?

Salami. tomato and gherkin sandwich

Thursday

Hendricks gin and tonic

Thursday

Day Five –  I bought a hunk of German rye bread from Choitrams, my local supermarket, and sliced it as thinly as I could manage. A decent layer of unsalted butter is essential for rye bread and I slathered mayonnaise onto one side too.  German salami, organic tomatoes and the tiniest cornichons made the filling salty, spicy, crunchy and sweet.  An afternoon nap would have been nice after this but I had to keep going which I did with my ‘welcome to the weekend’ Thursday Hendrick’s gin and tonic in mind.  The bottle looks medicinal and the juniper and slightly herbal flavours have a whiff of the chemist about them in the nicest possible way.  Serve with a slice of cucumber.

shwarma and tabbouleh

Friday

Day Six – The best shwarma I have eaten was in Saudi Arabia – they seemed to add a magic ingredient there.  These from Eat and Drink were not world-class but the amount of custom they get means the chicken is very fresh with a delicious smoky taste.  There is tomato and lettuce and a thin sauce which has as much in common with mayonnaise as tahini.  There are no chips (KP’s favourite type) – I have to add hot sauce.  The taboulleh is fresh and not too coarsely chopped.  I love it – the astringent herbs make you feel like every mouthful is giving you enough vitamins for a week.

 Aubergine, tomato and chorizo meatballs

Saturday

Day Seven – The tyranny of this week’s food record is nearly over – hat’s off to Elysia – I would not like to do this for a whole year.  Everyone liked the grilled aubergine with tomato sauce so much that I made it again (recipe below).  I used the tupperware chorizo to make meatballs, fried them in olive oil and added them to the tomato sauce to simmer for a short while before pouring over the aubergine.  It might seem strange to add pork to a Middle Eastern dish but I think it worked.  The spices in the chorizo were probably brought to the Spanish by the Arabs via the Spice route.

Grilled aubergine in tomato sauce.

(inspired by Claudia Roden)

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 aubergines
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • a tin and a half of tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar
  • half a teaspoon of sugar
  • a dried chilli or a pinch of chilli powder
  • Flat-leaved parsley, chopped

You don’t need to salt aubergines to extract the bitterness as modern varieties are mild.  Peel the aubergines and slice them evenly, lengthways.  Brush each side with olive oil and place on a baking tray (do one aubergine at a time to stop them discolouring). Sprinkle with salt and put under a hot grill for about 15 minutes.  You need to keep a close eye and turn them over and round.  When they are brown and very soft remove them to a dish.

Meanwhile make the sauce.  Saute the crushed garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until slightly softened then add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and chilli plus a little salt.  Simmer for about half an hour until you have a thick sauce. Pour over the aubergines and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve cold.

Aubergines

Grilling the aubergines

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