“YOU say summer cannot end / And you will never lie,” Charles Causley sings — and so do I, when September, as it has this year, changes gear from August so imperceptibly. It is time to savour the last of the holidays — and other people’s holidays vicariously through postcards and letters, and recipes. It seems that my younger daughter never eats anything, anywhere, but, by way of a contemporary grace, she takes a photo of it first, and sends it to the world to be admired.
Alexandra, a friend, has been to Piedmont, but brought home photos of Parma ham and melon looking thoroughly at home in Turin, and a recipe from Puglia, which is yet another way of serving Aubergines. This is for four people.
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons capers
a handful or two of grated Parmesan
4 slices of bread, crumbed
1 carton of passata
Some time in advance, slice the aubergines in half, and scoop out the flesh. Put the flesh in a bowl, sprinkle it with salt, drain it and press it well. Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Make the filling by frying the aubergine flesh, and adding the capers, breadcrumbs, most of the Parmesan, capers, eggs, and seasoning. Place the shells in a fairly deep gratin dish, and stuff them with the filling. Pour the passata round them, and drizzle olive oil over the whole. Bake them for about half an hour.
Another of her discoveries was Fennel braised with anchovy, a good accompaniment or starter:
2 large fennel bulbs with all their green hair on
½ tin of anchovies
1 garlic clove
1 red chili (optional)
Using a large saucepan, or a frying pan with a lid, gently fry the garlic and chili with the anchovies and their oil, and a little extra oil. Chop the fennel tops and coarsely grate the fennel bulb. Add these to the pan, cover, and cook as gently as possible for about half an hour, or until tender.
Anchovies give richness to any vegetable dish in a self-effacing way. I like to use them as a basis for any tomato sauce, but another classic way of combining similar ingredients is to stuff red peppers with Tomatoes and anchovies:
1 red pepper, 1 large tomato, and 1 anchovy per person
plenty of garlic
Halve the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Skin the tomatoes and chop them into eighths. Chop the anchovies and garlic. Stuff the pepper halves with tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, and a little more olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Fresh thyme, oregano, or basil go well with the vegetables. Bake them on a roasting tray for about half an hour, in a medium oven.