I’ve been relishing the wet weather. Spring sprang on cue, and then promptly gave way to coolish, grey, rain-soaked weeks. And, in typical sub-tropic form, the water has turned life feral. Grasses are seeding. Wilful blooms spill over fencelines and decorate footpaths. And frangipani celebrate the season, leaves budding from branches like candles on a cake. All is a furious jungle-ism of foliage, stem and bloom. Hell bent on life. I feel much the same. Creatively inspired, inflated by possibility. I’m chuffed to have a small piece in issue #25 of the ever-inspiring Dumbo feather – out now folks! Am still incredibly buoyed from the holiday, and hanging onto that ‘looking at the world anew’ feeling. We’ve been enjoying a bit of nest feathering, preceded by a major decluttering binge. K made lots of shelves and re-organised our little pad. Egads, the unfathomable joy! He also made a bathroom mirror with materials from Reverse Garbage. And, at last, I’m making headway, albeit sluggishly, with the holiday photos.
I’m feeling renewed in food realms too. I recently cottoned on to Yotam Ottolenghi, via his inspired New Vegetarian column on The Guardian website. He does really interesting, light, fragrant food with a middle eastern bent. Usually not much of a cookbook collector, I broke and forked out for Plenty. I got it home and started flipping. With the cooler weather, this recipe for sweetcorn polenta and aubergine sauce jumped out. I’ve not been very adventurous with eggplant, but am keen to unravel its subtleties. I made a few adaptations to the eggplant sauce based on what I had on hand, and served it with regular polenta. Ottolenghi’s dish, interestingly, is a variation on a recipe by Israeli food writers Haim Cohen and Eli Landau. I guess that’s how recipes travel! This is simple, comforting couch food. Definitely on my make-again list.
Ottolenghi’s recipe calls for white wine. I didn’t have any so added more water; the result didn’t seem to lack. His recipe also uses fresh corn cobs for the polenta – I made regular polenta from dried cornmeal. Recipe below is as I made it. Serves two, with squabbles over leftovers for lunch the next day.
1 medium eggplant, cut into 2cm dice
200g chopped peeled tomatoes (about 1/2 can tomatoes)
2 tsp tomato puree (I used the thick juices from the can)
1 tbspn fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 tsp raw sugar
1/4 tsp seasalt
couple of generous splashes of olive oil
1 cup polenta
3 cups water
1 tbspn butter
sesalt and pepper
shaved peccorino to serve
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook until browned on all sides – about 15 minutes. Drain off any excess oil. Add tomato puree to pan and stir. Cook for two minutes, add chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano and cook for five minutes. Set aside.
Bring 3 cups water to boil. Slowly pour in polenta, stirring continuously. Turn heat down to low and continue stirring for 10 minutes. You may need to cook it for longer, depending on how course the polenta grains are. When polenta is thick and soft, remove from heat, stir in butter and season with seasalt and pepper.
Reheat eggplant and serve over polenta with shaved peccorino.