IF YOU are lucky enough to eat at my friend Jenny’s table, you know that you will taste nothing better anywhere else. We sat down to a rich spinach, date, and almond salad recently, followed by a dish of lentils and al dente vegetables, complemented by a simple aubergine purée and Greek yogurt.
A rather English take on the creamed aubergine as a main dish is ”Sultan’s delight”. (Using small aubergines means that the bitter flavour around the seeds has not had time to develop.) This should feed four people.
4-5 young aubergines
juice of half a lemon
60g (2 oz) butter
90g (3 oz) flour
125ml (¼ pt) milk
a pinch of nutmeg
a flavourful cheese
Bake the aubergines until they are squashy. Scoop out the flesh, and cook it with lemon juice in a saucepan, stirring from time to time to prevent burning. Make a roux by melting the butter in another pan and cooking the flour in it. Add the aubergine flesh, and a little milk, and season with nutmeg, pepper, and salt. Cook until the dish thickens to your taste. Cover with grated cheese, and grill.
A traditional sweet-and-sour Caponata is often eaten cold, and it is best made the day before you eat it. This is enough for six people.
450g (1 lb) aubergine, diced
450g (1 lb) green peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 tins tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon olives
2-3 tablespoons wine or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Fry the aubergines, and when they are cooked through (about 15 minutes), fry the peppers. Fry the onions and celery until they are tender, and add the tomatoes. (If you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, you may wish to scald them in a bowl first, to peel away the skin.) Then pile in the olives and capers, and the cooked vegetables, mix them together, and season with vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper.
If you have a good gratin dish, you might enjoy making a Tian of aubergines — a tian being a Provençal oven dish with a wide surface area. This serves four people.
900g (2 lb) aubergines, sliced
450g (1 lb) tomatoes, sliced
handful of basil leaves
225g (8 oz) cheese: cheddar, Gruyère, or whatever you have
Salt the aubergine slices if you wish. Blanch them in boiling acidulated water (with a squeeze of lemon) for a minute, and drain them. Layer them with the tomatoes in the dish, perking up the tomatoes with a little lemon juice and salt, or some sun-dried tomatoes, or tomato purée. Chop the basil leaves and scatter them on top. Then finish with a layer of grated cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes.