Patty Pan and the Sicilian Aubergine Mystery

Like many cooks I fear, I do have a habit of lighting upon something that looks very interesting, buying it in a fit of enthusiasm and then forgetting all about it until the fridge thins out and reveals all.

This usually coincides of course with an absence of a few days, and returning home after all the shops have shut!  Thus it was yesterday, and my fresh supplies were running low.  Low enough to reveal though some delicious, albeit unusual combinations to try.  I had been given a few days earlier a Yellow Patty Pan squash and my enthused purchase had been a  wonderful globular Sicilian Aubergine, resplendent in pinkish purple and white.

Sicilian Aubergines

Sicilian Aubergines (Photo credit: designwallah)

To this I thought I had little enough to add, but some rooting about found a few organic supplies still unconsumed.  A carrot, some fresh ginger, a solitary green bean from the allotment, some smoked garlic and a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes along with a packet of Mozzarella.

I am, I freely confess, an Organic produce aficionado.  It may be more expensive (but not always) It may look sometimes a bit misshapen and irregular  (well so do I and what the heck!)

I waste very little of my produce purchases, in fact anything in the way of off-cuts is always destined for the compost anyway so you could say what goes around comes around, as the late, great Bob Marley said!

Anyway, enough prattling and on to the important stuff, FOOD!

Ingredients for 4 hungry people:

One Sicilian Aubergine, topped and then quartered longways and then into further 10 mm slices;  one Patty Pan Squash, topped and tailed, then cut in half across ways and the seeds scooped out, then into 20 mm slices;  one carrot;  2″ fresh ginger peeled;  one green runner bean, cut into 20 mm diagonal chunks;  smoked garlic, 2 fat cloves, just crushed;   1 x 400 ml tin Italian chopped tomatoes; A 275 g packet of organic Mozzarella;  Olive Oil; dried Oregano; 400 g of broad ribbon pasta like Pappardelle or similar, sea salt.

Medium heat your oil in a high sided fry pan, then add the aubergine slices turning to coat with oil (you may need to add a little oil to the later slices).  Keep the heat down to prevent charring and sprinkle the aubergines slices liberally with oregano turning to ensure even distribution.  It is the addition of oregano to aubergine dishes that gives them that Taste of Sicily!  Then add your Patty Pan and stir in gently.  Allow them to get acquainted at a low temperature while you open the tomatoes, pour yourself a glass of wine, etc., etc………………….

When the mix has nicely softened add the chopped tomatoes and the crushed garlic, stir and simmer.  Then using the fairly coarse side to your grater (I bought an OXO one recently and found it great, although a danger to unwary fingertips!) grate first the ginger in and stir well, then the carrot and stir that well in too.  Finally add your green bean!  Allow to simmer ’til the bean is al dente.

With your pasta water (I always put a little salt and olive oil in too) at a rolling boil, add your Pappardelle and ease into the water.  While it is cooking to the famous Al Dente stage, drain the brine from your Mozzarella packet and tear the soft cheese up, scattering it over your simmering dish.

Drain the pasta well and serve with it surrounding the gloriously coloured dish.  If you, and I suspect you won’t, have any left it makes an equally delicious cold Antipasti  for lunch the next day.

Buono Appetito!

Just before the Mozzarella!

Just before the Mozzarella!

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Baighan Tarkari – Simple Aubergine Curry

This dish combines the wonderful creaminess of Aubergines with a tangy spiciness.  It utilises Paanch Phoran, an Eastern Indian spice mix, which is unusual in that it is used unground.  They’re the first items into the pan, to be fried off until just brown and releasing their wonderful aroma.

As those who have read my previous ramblings will know, I do not believe in using electric blenders to grind spices.  They are however wonderful for making a short cut to a basic paste which can be used in many curries.

Take your onion, garlic cloves and ginger, roughly chop and then whizz them up in a blender.  The resultant paste is usually the number two item to go into the pan and  scoops up all the spices and absorbs them into a lovely blend.

Ingredients for 4:

Paanch Phoran:  One tsp each of the following seeds, mix thoroughly and store what’s not needed here into an airtight container for future use.

Cumin seeds, Nigella seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Black Mustard seeds, and finally Fennel seeds.  Those who find Fennel too strong can substitute  perhaps Anise instead.

A nice firm, shiny, unblemished Aubergine.  Slice lengthways first into 15 mm slices and if the centre is too ‘seedy’ or soft slice this out too and discard it.   Cut across the slices to give you about 4 sections from each slice; 1 medium onion, peeled; 2 fat garlic cloves, peeled; about 25 mm of peeled fresh ginger [rough chop all these and blend as above into a paste]; 1 tsp coriander powder; 1 tsp chilli powder; 1 tsp cumin powder; 1/2 tsp turmeric powder; 2 ripe, juicy tomatoes, rough chopped; 1 tbsp tomato puree; 2 tbsp of good quality veg oil;  sea salt if required for seasoning and some fresh Coriander leaves for serving.

Heat the oil in your pan.  Add 1 tsp of the Paanch Phoran mix and fry off ’til the seeds pop and give off their wonderful aroma.  But do not allow to burn!  Add your onion/garlic/ginger paste and stir well so that it picks up all the spices and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Add your Aubergine and stir well and cook for about 5 minutes.  Mix your ground spices is a small bowl and then sprinkle evenly over the pan.  Stir in well.

Mix the chopped tomatoes and puree and stir in next.  Wait ’til the mixture starts to bubble up then reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently away until your aubergine is thoroughly cooked and creamy in texture.  Then test and add a little salt if necessary to taste.  Serve piping hot. Sprinkle the Coriander leaves as a dressing for the dish.

A plain rice or simple Roti is all you need to go with it.

apanē bhōjana kā ānanda!