Aubergine and Chickpea Stew

This is the first recipe I have tried from the ‘Cook for Syria’ recipe book. The book is a collection of recipes from Syria, and so much more. It tells about the culture of food and sharing in Syria, builds links with people using the #CookForSyria @CookForSyria tags, and raising money for Unicef to help children affected by fighting in their beautiful country.

I served it to a visitor, and we shared a lot of stories about the ethics and politics of food. I had to make a few adaptions to fit my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 aubergines
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp za’atar (I used the mystery mixed Italian herbs, but za’atar is available from Seasoned Pioneers. )
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Chopped coriander to serve
  • Coconut vegan yoghurt, or grated creamed coconut

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Chop the aubergine into chunks. I split them length-ways into quarters and then slice thickly.
  • Put the aubergines into a roasting tin with the spices and 4 cloves of garlic, coat with olive oil and roast for 25 to 30 minutes
  • Finely chop the red onion and cook it slowly in olive oil, for around 10 minutes
  • Add 2 cloves of garlic, chopped, along with the tomatoes, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add the aubergine, chickpeas, salt, apple cider vinegar and cook until the chickpeas are hot.
  • Serve with a garnish of coriander leaves and coconut yoghurt.

I served this with rice, and we were very full afterwards

Ratatouille

I have tried many recipes for ratatouille, this is the best. I think I got it off the internet, with a promise that this was the most authentic.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 aubergine, diced
  • 4 courgettes, halved and sliced
  • 300g french beans, cut to 1 inch lengths
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of chopped fennel leaves
  • fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  • Salt the diced aubergines and courgettes and set aside. Rinse the salt off after 20 minutes (I do this in a colander)
  • Heat the oil in a large pan, and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft.
  • Add the aubergines and courgettes, and cook for another five minutes or so.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes, and then with the lid off for 20 minutes. Keep a close eye and stir occasionally, to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.

This freezes OK, but it is best reheated the day after making it.

Aubergine and Yoghurt Dip

This is a very easy Persian version of a common middle-eastern dip. Be prepared to get a bit messy for the best results. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 tbsp very good quality olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 200ml plain full-fat greek yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Rinse the aubergines and prick them with a fork in a few places. Put them in the centre of the oven on a rack with a baking tray underneath. Bake for one hour. 
  • Remove the aubergines from the oven, let them cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh. 
  • Put all the chopped aubergine into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. I used my bare hands to squish the aubergine well, before beating with a fork. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  • Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with saffron water, a tablespoonful of plain yoghurt and mint leaves. 
  • This recipe is best made 24 hours in advance, and stored in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. This is good served with bread. 

Aubergine sauce for pasta

This sauce is good mixed with small pasta, or layered with lasagne and a bechamel sauce and baked. In fact, I bet you could mix it with small pasta and bake it. I have tried it two ways, once using some mystery chilli and herb seasoning that a relative bought back from Italy for me. I made a small quantity suitable for two or three people, so double this would be a really good lot of sauce sufficient to serve around six people.

Top tip discovered whilst doing this: One handful of small pasta weighs a good ounce. Three handfuls is one good-size portion of pasta. There are other versions of this classic sauce around: I found one in The Pasta Bible, and another on Allrecipes website

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tsbs olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A handful of fresh parsley (I used fresh flat-leaf parsley from the garden)
  • 1 medium aubergine, diced
  • 1/2 handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp ground chilli (or use a small fresh chilli and add it with the garlic)
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp marigold stock powder
  • 1 tin chopped organic tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (If you are using the mystery Italian seasoning from the holiday pack of pasta, use this in place of the parsley, chilli, basil and paprika, and add with the aubergines: I would suggests a heaped teaspoonful)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and add the garlic and parsley.
  • Turn the heat to very low, squish the garlic with a wooden spoon, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes while you chop the aubergine. I got nervous about this, it seemed a long time, so I checked every so often, and took it off the heat once the garlic looked cooked.
  • If you used a small whole fresh chilli, remove this now. Add the aubergines, chilli powder, basil, half the water, and cover to simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • I put the marigold stock powder into the remaining hot water, along with the saffron and sugar and allowed this to infuse.
  • After the 10 minutes is up, add the water, saffron, sugar, stock powder, wine and tomatoes, along with the paprika. Season to taste, cover and settle it to simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Once the sauce is cooked, put it somewhere safe, boil up the pasta of your choice, drain and then stir in the sauce.
  • If you are using this for a baked pasta dish, stir in the cooked pasta, put it into an ovenproof dish, top with mozzarella, and bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven.