JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Long silence ...

... I was rather put off my stride by a comment made to me by someone who was asking about our diet. I said we followed advice to try to eat seven portions of fruit and veg a day, and was told firmly that half the world didn't have that much food. So I've been thinking about that, too. And in the bigger picture, this is a diet which is sustainable, because the more veg you eat, the less meat you eat, and meat is the most wasteful food in terms of world resources - I can't remember the figures, but you need to grow a lot of grass and/or cereal to produce one kilo of beef. The other part of the equation here is trying to eat food that is in season, rather than food which is flown half way round the world, tasting of very little at all. And that thought leads me to the next recipe, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook, for courgettes - well, in my case, more of a marrow, since no-one picked them while we were away.

Essence of courgette

Thinly slice the courgettes, and put them in a wide-based pan with some olive oil and a little garlic. Sweat these over a very low heat until they are all collapsed and there's no water in them. They shouldn't be allowed to go brown. Bash them up a bit, and eat them hot as a veg, or room temperature on bread or toast (ie bruschetta). HFW has several other things to do with this mixture, but, as they involve cream and a lot of cheese, I am not going to post them. However, I am going to see if I can adapt them, and will keep you posted (there are going to be a lot of courgettes over the next few weeks ...).

Sweet and sour aubergine

Make a tomato sauce with onions, garlic and tomatoes - I generally make quite a bit at once, because it's useful as it is on pasta, and it is useful as a short cut in daily cooking. It's just chopping and then slow sweating for an hour or two. Meanwhile, chop the aubergine into cubes, salt them, and leave them in a colander for an hour or so. I don't always bother to do this, but it definitely means you have firmer, "meatier" pieces of aubergine in the finished dish. When you're ready, rinse and squeeze the aubergine, and put them in a pan with some olive oil and brown them. Turn the heat down and add some tomato sauce, and here you have to decide what type of dish you want to end up with - I like it to be not too tomato-ey, because I don't want it to end up like ratatouille, but Lettice prefers it with lots of tomato. So I put in quite a lot less tomato than aubergine. At the same time, add a good lot of dried mint (and it really is better here than fresh mint), some chopped parsley, some red wine vinegar and some sugar. Yesterday, with a 2 aubergine mix, I put 2tsp dried mint, 2 mugs of chopped parsley (another post-holiday glut), 3tbsp vinegar and 1tbsp of sugar. Sweat it slowly for 15-20 minutes, until the aubergines are cooked.

This is good at room temperature. And if you've got some stale bread, you can toast it, break it up, and put it in the bottom of the serving dish.

Next time I make this, I will probably put in a little crumbled dried chilli.

This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden, and the adaptation makes use of the tomato sauce that was already in my fridge. CR starts with onions and garlic, moves on to aubergine, and then adds tinned tomato and seasonings.

I've got lots of other things to post soon, because I've been away in Sri Lanka, eating a lot of different vegetable curries, and delicious salads. I find I am less and less interested in eating meat, because vegetables offer so much more variation of taste and texture. So I am rather pleased that what is sustainable as a personal diet is also a more sustainable diet for the planet.

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