Colourful slices of a sweet potato bread with flecks of red and white from the beetroot and feta

Sweet potato, beetroot, harissa and feta loaf

Colourful slices of a sweet potato bread with flecks of red and white from the beetroot and feta

Pretty as a painting, this sweet potato, beetroot, harissa and feta loaf  is almost too gorgeous to eat – but it tastes as good as it looks.

The sweet potato adds sweetness, the beetroot contributes both colour and earthiness, the harissa has fiery, spicy depth (you can adjust the quantity to suit your tastebuds) and the feta delivers a salty tang to balance the flavours.

We’re well in to the root vegetable season now so these ingredients should be easy to find.

There is cornmeal (fine polenta) in there too, for some texture, and you can sub the buttermilk for a mix of yoghurt and milk if that’s hard to come by.

Next time the oven is on, pop a tray a sweet potatoes underneath (make sure to prick them so they don’t explode!), they should take an hour or so to soften so you can scoop out the cooked flesh once they have cooled. The beetroot doesn’t need pre-cooking.

I had this warm from the oven spread with cream cheese. It’s like a Rorschach painting in your mouth!

Ingredients

Makes a 900g loaf (or 10 muffins)

170g plain flour (you can use gluten-free)

170g fine cornmeal

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

.5 teaspoon bicarb of soda
.5 teaspoon salt

250g cooked sweet potato, mashed

1 medium raw beetroot, peeled and grated

200ml whole milk
200ml Greek yoghurt or buttermilk
2 medium free-range eggs
50ml olive or rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon of your favourite harissa paste (more or less according to taste)
200g feta cheese, drained and crumbled

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 2lb loaf tin or use a non-stick baking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, weigh out and mix the dry ingredients. In a large jug add the milk, yoghurt, eggs and harissa and whisk well.
Add the wet mix to the dry and use a big folding action with a spatula to combine, the add the sweet potato and feta.
Pour into the loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 50-65 minutes. It’s a damp loaf but a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean when it’s done.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out. You can also make these as muffins, simply line and fill a muffin tin and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Why not also have a look at my Cheddar and Green Chilli cornbread recipe.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Half an aubergine roasted with star anise, Chinese rice wine and sesame

Miso aubergine

Half an aubergine roasted with star anise, Chinese rice wine and sesame

We all need more ways to cook aubergine, right? It absorbs flavour like a sponge, and these flavours are deeply savoury and umami without being overtly Asian so you can serve this as a meat-alternative for a roast dinner, or drizzle with a tahini dressing and serve with salads.

They cook slowly so will happily sit in a small dish at the bottom of the oven while other things are cooked above.

Ingredients

Serves 2

1 medium/large globe aubergine

1 tbsp brown miso paste (I like the Clearspring organic one)

45ml boiling water

100ml Shaoxing rice wine (This is the one I use, and it’s great for cooking pork belly and lots of other recipes. Or you could  substitute dry sherry, mirin or cooking sake)

1 teaspoon zingy Szechuan peppercorns, bashed or ground with a pestle and mortar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

4 star anise

1 tbsp sesame oil

Method

Cut the aubergine in half lengthways (top to bottom) and make some criss-cross incisions in the cut half, being careful not to slice all the way through to the skin. You want slits so the flavours can penetrate.

In a ramekin mix the miso paste with the boiling water, then use a pastry brush to paint the cut half generously with the mixture.

Place the aubergine in a small oven-proof dish, pour over half the Shaoxing, half the soy sauce and half a cup of water and add the star anise to the dish. Sprinkle with the Szechuan pepper.

Place in a low oven (160C / 350G / Gas mark 4) for 90 minutes.
After 45 minutes paint another layer of miso mixture and turn the aubergine over to lie ‘face down’.  If a lot of the liquid has evaporated, top up with more Shaoxing, soy and water.

For the last 5 minutes of cooking time, turn the aubergine back over, spoon over the cooking juices and pour over the sesame oil. Check the seasoning – despite the miso and soy sauce it may need a little salt.

These can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.

 

To add a tahini dressing, mix together 2 tablespoons of tahini with the juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon of garlic paste, a pinch of salt and 4 tablespoons of boiling water.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020


olive oil and rosemary crackers

Sourdough crackers

olive oil and rosemary crackers

These crackers are a great way to use up sourdough starter discard (to keep it fresh between bakes, I remove half from the jar and feed it back up again) and I’ve made pancakes, muffins and bagels with the excess so as not to waste the precious wild yeast that works so hard for my bread.

These are fabulous served with cheeses, pates or just munched on their own.

I used rosemary but you could use fennel seeds or sesame seeds or leave them plain. Use a pastry cutter or a sharp knife to cut the shapes you want. It’s important to prick them before baking, so the air bubbles don’t blow up.

Ingredients

Makes 12-15

250ml sourdough starter

100-150g plain flour

.25 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp sea salt

30ml olive oil

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

Olive oil for brushing

Sea salt for sprinkling

Alternative flavourings

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons ground fennel plus seeds for sprinkling

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Colman’s English mustard powder

Method

With the sourdough starter in a bowl, add 100g of the flour and all the other ingredients and mix to a stiff dough. You may need more flour, or not depending on how wet your starter is.

Cover and leave to rest for an hour.

Heat the oven to 180C.

Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, no more than 2mm, and cut or shape. Place on a lined baking sheet, prick with a fork, brush with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake the crackers for 10-12 minutes until they start to brown, and then turn them over for a few more minutes. They need to be cooked through and crispy but not impossible to bite into!

Thanks to Ghalid Assyb for the inspiration!

© Linda Galloway 2020


a bowl of colourful sweet potato curry with coriander garnish

Sweet Potato and Cashew Nut Curry

a bowl of colourful sweet potato curry with coriander garnish

This sweet potato and cashew nut curry started out as a demonstration of food-and-wine matching and how aromatic white wines can pair with spicy food. I served it with a Pinot Gris from Alsace

It’s vegan but you could easily add chicken. It’s a great way to get vegetables into teenagers, too – everyone loves the mellow flavours.

The recipe is based on the food of Kerala in southwest India, and one of  Das Sreedharan’s spice pastes from his book Fresh Flavours of India.

I vary the basic recipe depending on what I want to achieve (level of heat, colour, what spices I want to use up etc).  Sometimes I add turmeric or crushed cardamom, too.

Ingredients

Feeds 4

1 large white onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 red chillies (or to taste), topped and seeds removed if preferred

7cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

6 black peppercorns

2tsp ground cinnamon

1tbsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

1 big bunch fresh coriander (half in the paste, half chopped for garnish)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tins coconut milk

1kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed

Salt and pepper

200g cashew nuts

Method

Make a spice paste by putting the onion, garlic, chillies, ginger, half the coriander, peppercorns, cumin and cinnamon in a blender with half the oil and whiz to a fine mush. In a large saucepan, heat the rest of the oil and fry the spice paste for three minutes, stirring, until it starts to sizzle.

Add the sweet potato and coconut milk and simmer with the lid off for 30-45 minutes, until tender. Stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom, but don’t break up the sweet potato chunks too much.

Heat the oven to 160C (300F), put the cashew nuts on a baking tray and roast for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool and chop (I put them in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin).

Taste the curry to check and adjust seasoning.

Just before serving, chop the rest of the fresh coriander and add, with the nuts, to the curry and stir through. Serve with basmati rice, couscous or flat breads for dipping.

If you’re adding chicken (breast or boneless thighs are equally good), use less sweet potato, add it with the sweet potato and make sure the chicken is cooked through.

If you like spicy food, my harissa recipe makes adding warmth and heat to dishes really easy.

© Linda Galloway 2020


A bowl of vibrant red pepper sauce

Harissa with blanched garlic

A bowl of vibrant red pepper sauce

This harissa is subtly sweeter than most as it uses blanched garlic to dull its often brash overtones.

I love hot, spicy food. Having grown up on a well-cooked and tasty but bland diet of meat and potatoes – the family table staying true to my father’s Scottish roots – I didn’t discover spice until I left home but have more than made up for it since.

Along the way, from mild kormas and dhals to flaming hell-fire vindaloos, I have learnt to appreciate the nuances that spice and a bit of heat can add to food. A lot of people are scared of “hot” food – when hearing that it’s curry for supper the typical response is “I hope it’s not too hot”. When cooking for clients I always err on the side of caution, keeping the chilli quotient down (but offering extra chopped or dried chilli at the table for personal adjustment). An irascible (but lovable) member at the private club where I used to cook always complained that spicy food made her ears hurt, and she would make her displeasure loudly known ahead of the meal and then return to the kitchen – eyebrows on surprise-alert – to say how much she had enjoyed it.

Curry is such a broad church, and chillis such a various species, that it seems a shame to lump them all together in one category. For example you need to differentiate not just between countries but within countries – separating Keralan from Goan; or Malay from Nyonya – not to mention the infinite regional variations in Thailand, Burma or Nepal. And there’s the whole of Arabia and Africa to consider … On my personal spice route, I have found harissa, a staple of Tunisian and Moroccan cooking, a versatile godsend in the kitchen, and I would venture to put it in the same category as ketchup or miso. It is not just a condiment, because the combination of smokey heat, spice, garlic, vinegar and sugar boosts the complexity of soups, sauces, dressings or marinades. So when I saw the array of peppers and chillis on offer at my favourite local greengrocer, Newington Green Fruit and Vegetable shop – packed with specialist produce – it was easy.

A mix of red peppers of different shapes and sizes and a mix of chillis – you can (roughly) determine the heat by choosing or avoiding the Scotch bonnet rippers and go for the stubbier, more triangular shaped ones (and remove the seeds if you’re really worried) – and a few bulbs of garlic went into my basket and I was away.

At home I turned the oven on to roasting temperature (180C) and on to a roasting tray I roughly topped and chopped the peppers (360g) and chillies (190g), drizzled with a good slug of ordinary olive oil (eg Carbonell), a tablespoon of ground coriander, a tablespoon of cumin seeds, a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika and a generous pinch of sea salt. In it went for an hour, and I gave it a good turning over every 15-minutes or so, allowing the peppers and chillies to char slightly, and the house to fill with gorgeous spicy, smokey aromas. Simultaneously, I peeled two bulbs of garlic (about 20 cloves) and blanched them three times in boiling water. This is a great way to soften and sweet the flavour of the garlic and remove the harsh, nasty side effects. Essentially just bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the peeled cloves, simmer for 20 minutes, drain and repeat. This means the garlic is ready about the same time as the peppers.

It all went in to the blender with a slug (10ml) of red wine vinegar, another 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a generous pinch of brown sugar and another big pinch of sea salt. Blitz it all together and test the seasoning with the tip of a spoon. Through the heat you should get notes of sweetness, spice and acidity. If it tastes a bit flat, add a dash more vinegar and salt. Sadly, I appreciate the extreme end of the flavour spectrum rather more than my spouse, so I bottled a few jars of the vibrantly colourful paste for friends and saved enough to keep me going for quite a while.

I got my first chance to use it today, in an egg and cress sarnie with home made bread, mixing a teaspoon of harissa into the mayonnaise. Eggs and chilli are a winning flavour combination (don’t take my word for it, add a few dried chilli flakes next time you scramble eggs).

The sprouts added crunch, and I swear Spouse was leaning in a little too close to my plate as I devoured it.

If you prefer milder food, try my recipe for Sweet Potato and Cashew Nut curry in which fresh ginger provides some of the heat, and coconut milk adds a sweet, nutty counterpoint to the spice.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Dolmades for dollars

I made these as a fundraiser for disaster relief agencies on the ground in Beirut after the chemical blast in August that made thousands homeless and reduced large parts of the city to rubble. Life in 2020 isn’t easy for anyone, and there are so many organisations that need our support that it can dull the charitable instinct into submission. Does one help people at home, next door,  in the same country? Refugees fleeing war and persecution? Children starving in African villages with no food or running water?
It’s all relative, but with more resources than I need I always try to help where I can – every little bit adds up, I reckon.

The Lebanese Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and many other international aid agencies have been working tirelessly there to bring some comfort to the citizens who have been buffeted not just by political drama but an explosion the size of a nuclear bomb. You can follow the links to read more about the ongoing relief efforts there, and to make a donation if you can.

The @sahteinbeirut challenge asked people to cook a Levantine dish and make a donation to one of the charities working there. I immediately thought of dolmades (besides which everyone else seemed to be making falafel and houmous).

We used to make loads of these in the catering kitchen as they are such a delicious mouthful of contasting textures and flavours, slightly exotic with flavours of the Mediterranean and Middle East, and always a perfect vegetarian starter or addition to a sharing platter.
They can be a bit time consuming to prepare – and require advance planning as the filling needs to be made a day ahead – but so worth the effort, and if you break down the stages it’s instantly more manageable and rolling the little rice parcels is quite a zen activity especially if you’ve got some good music on or an interesting podcast.

This version was cobbled together from memory, based on a Claudia Roden classic (I couldn’t find the cookbook), and the only ingredient I had to buy was the vine leaves, easily sourced in my local Turkish shop. They keep well in a sealed container, for random snacking events throughout the day.

I served mine with quick flatbreads, tabbouleh and a yoghurt sauce for dipping.

Ingredients

Makes 20 small-medium ones

For the filling:
1 cup Baldo or other short-grain/pudding rice (this is the one I buy, it’s a big pack but also great for rice puddings)

1 red onion

3 cloves garlic

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded if necessary

200g tinned chopped tomato (use a good quality one). This is half a tin, the other half will go in the cooking sauce.

100ml water

15ml olive oil

1tsp ground cinnamon

3tsp dried mint

Generous pinch of sumac

Pinch of cayenne pepper to taste

50g currants, raisins or sultanas – soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes

50g pine nuts

75g feta cheese, crumbled (optional – I have also made these with small cubes of halloumi)

Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

200g tinned tomatoes (see above)

1tbsp tomato puree

15ml olive oil

400-600ml water

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of cayenne

Salt and pepper

1 jar of vine leaves in brine –  simmer these in boiling water for 15-30 minutes to cook them through so they aren’t tough.

To serve:

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Method

Make the filling:

In a blender blitz up the onion, garlic and chilli. Add the tomato pulp and blitz again.

Tip into a bowl with the rice, add the water, oil and spices and mix well. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day add the soaked raisins, pine nuts and feta (if using). Taste and adjust the seasoning – it needs to be punchy, and feel slightly over-seasoned.

To assemble:

Drain the vine leaves, take one and unfurl it gently on a board, with the veined side up. You may need to snip off the stem.

Place a spoon of filling in the middle and roll up like a spring roll, tucking in the edges. Place the filled rolls in an oven-proof baking dish in a single layer.

Whizz up the sauce in a blender and pour it over the dolmades. Cover the dish tightly with a tight-fitting lid or wrap in foil and cook in the oven at 170C for 90-120 minutes. After 90 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked (you will have to sacrifice a dolma!) and add a little extra water if the pan seems dry.

Leave to cool and serve cold, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Aromatic bean stew

THIS canellini bean stew makes a tasty midweek supper using tinned beans but can also be made with dried beans soaked overnight and cooked ahead.

It’s a meat-free meal and especially tasty served on char-grilled sourdough with lots of extra-virgin olive oil but equally delicious with roast chicken or lamb chops.

The flavour comes from the aromatics – sage, rosemary and bay – and also lots of garlic and as much chilli as you fancy. This can be baked in an oven-proof dish with a good-fitting lid or tightly covered with foil.

Ingredients

Feeds 4

400g cannellini or borlotti beans (tinned or dried, soaked overnight and cooked through)
1 small or half a medium red onion, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 red chilli, whole but pierced (or a dried poblano or ancho chile)
2-3 plum tomatoes, halved, or a 8-10 cherry tomatoes, pierced (to stop them exploding)
30g fresh sage leaves, shredded
25g fresh rosemary, leaves only
3-4 fresh bay leaves
80ml vegetable stock
45 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Several grinds of black pepper

Method

Turn the oven on to 160C.
Put the beans, onion, garlic, herbs and tomato in an oven-proof dish, mix well, tuck in the chilli, pour over the stock and extra-virgin olive oil, season, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil, and bake for 1-2 hours. orYou could stew it on the hob in a lidded saucepan,  just be sure to stir it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom.
Remove a quarter to one-third of the bean mix, including a bit of everything except the bay leaves, blend to a puree, then fold back through the dish.
Taste and adjust seasoning, serve with a drizzle of olive oil on toasted sourdough, or as a side with most cooked meats.

© Linda Galloway 2020


Sourdough

It’s #sourdoughseptember so I’ve been casting back through the catalogue for some of my best bakes. I’m a weird combination of fast and slow, a mix of instant and delayed gratification. Maybe we all are?

To start with I was sceptical, I mean 2-3 days to make a loaf of bread?

Many years ago, my dear friend and talented architectural artist Anton is a master of sourdough and he generously shared some of his starter and his very detailed, 3-page instruction manual.

Then it seemed like a challenge that had to be tried and mastered, and slowly it became a way of life. Elvis the starter (who regularly leaves the building …) does duty a couple of times a week and this is critical for good results as a sluggish starter will give off noxious fumes, be overly sour and deliver distinctly average results.

I’ve travelled with Elvis in my luggage, I’ve travelled with the dough at various stages of its evolution, and I’ve stayed up til 2am because the dough was almost ready to bake.

Wild yeast can be unpredictable and frustrating – it’s untamed, spontaneous, and sometimes just isn’t in party mood.

But the texture, flavour and enhanced digestion that slow fermentation brings makes the jeopardy worth the journey.

There are many sourdough experts around (check out Dan Lepard, Michelle Eshkeri, Vanessa Kimbell et al) and I don’t claim to be one. The bread I make these days is mostly for home consumption, plus a few friends and neighbours who request it.

What has evolved is a method that works for me. I can’t be at home all day doing turns and folds every 30 minutes. I don’t have the patience (see above) to weigh in half grams and stress about whether the cold prove is going to be 6, 8 or 24 hours or whether I’ll get the ‘ear’ that is so highly prized for Instagram shots.

So I feed, mix, knead, leave, shape, prove, bake over a couple days without being too fussy about it. I do have a couple of non-negotiables. The first is organic flour, the No.4 from Shipton Mill, the second is filtered water and the third is a reliable oven that can get to upwards of 250C.

Over lockdown there has been much chatter about esoteric flours, shaping, Dutch ovens, razor slashes, intricate designs and patterns. Long may our creative bakers enhance their edible art and craft.

I mostly keep it simple and straightforward; bread is for slicing, topping, dunking, toasting, filling and satisfying. It won’t always be pretty, it won’t always be catwalk-ready but it will always be delicious.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020


Beetroot couscous with poppy and nigella seeds

Whenever I am planning a menu I try to balance a few things:

1. Seasonality (food in season is always cheaper and of better quality, although I make exceptions for some frozen veg). If seasonal is also local, even better.
2. Colours (I just love eating colourful food, having lots of different colours on the plate; a kind of ‘Eat the Rainbow’ philosophy. Our eyes are the biggest drivers of appetite, so why deprive them?
3. Textures (for example, by adding toasted nuts or putting raw and cooked elements together you can vary the mouthfeel of every mouthful)
4. Temperatures (some foods should only ever be served hot, but they are often complemented by a cold dip or salad)
5. Tastes (hot, sweet, sour, savoury, umami).

What this all adds up to is contrast.

Here’s another tasty and colourful side dish that will work well hot or cold, as an accompaniment to a main meat course or as a vegan or vegetarian option on its own. It looks stunning on a buffet, too.

Giant couscous, also known as ptitim, or Israeli couscous i,  in effect, pasta, so it takes flavour very well.  I sometimes cook down a tin of chopped tomatoes with rosemary, chilli flakes and black olives, and toss that through, or make a quick basil pesto to liven it up.

Ingredients

Serves 4

400g giant/Israeli couscous, wholemeal if preferred

1 bunch beetroot

1tbsp poppy seeds

1tbsp nigella (kalonji) seeds

Olive oil to taste

Sea salt and black pepper

Juice of half a lemon

Method

Cook the couscous in plenty of salted boiling water, as you would for pasta. The trick is not to overcook it – I always give it 1-2 minutes less than it says on the packet – so just six minutes, then drain and refresh quickly with cold water to wash out any remaining glueyness. To stop the grains getting claggy while cooling I spritz with a little olive oil and mix it through thoroughly with a fork.

To make the puree, peel the beetroot and cut into even-sized chunks. Toss them in a little olive oil with sea salt and black pepper, wrap securely in a foil parcel and roast in the oven at 180C for 60-90 minutes. They should be tender when poked. Tip them into a food processor or use a hand blender (wear an apron and watch walls and surfaces for scarlet splashes!), add a sploosh of extra-virgin olive oil and blitz to a fine puree. Check and adjust seasoning if necessary.

When the couscous has cooled, stir through half the beetroot puree, and add the seeds. Add more puree until you’re happy with the colour, consistency and flavour, and season with a squeeze of lemon juice.

How does this recipe meet my 5-point checklist? Beetroot is in season, colourful, earthy and sweet, while the seeds add crunch and contrast.  Serve this salad with a piece of crispy pan-fried seabass or roast chicken to complete the flavour profile.

© Linda Galloway 2020


A dish of stewed aubergine, courgette and tomato with fresh herbs, olives and capers

Caponata

A dish of stewed aubergine, courgette and tomato with fresh herbs, olives and capers

Caponata, the Italian (and specifically Sicilian) version of ratatouille could be classed as a summer salad. It’s best eaten at room temperature, when all the flavours show to their best advantage both separately and together. But it is also ready to do duty as a hearty winter stew, when I serve it on a thick slice of foccaccia that soaks up the juices.

In Italy it is often served with bread as a starter, as part of a spread of antipasti.

Caponata differs from ratatouille in the preparation, as the main ingredients (in true Italian fashion these vary from region to region but most agree on aubergine and courgette), are cooked separately and then added in to the tomato base sauce.

The caponata is also a good lesson in seasoning, as the capers, sultanas, olives and vinegar layer up flavours of sweet, sour and savoury (agrodolce). Anchovies are optional, they cook down in the sauce and are only noticeable in the finished dish as a deep, umami base note.

I was inspired to make this when I saw the gorgeous striped ‘graffiti’ aubergines at my local fruit and veg shop. Their pale interior prevents the finished caponata from becoming dark brown sludge. Alongside some bright yellow courgettes, and next to the new season garlic and startlingly red plum tomatoes, the answer to the question ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ was obvious.

As much as I like bell peppers, I find them too intrusive in this dish – I prefer them in a peperonata, as stars of their own show. So I leave them out, as appealing as they are on the summer vegetable shelf.

Ingredients

Serves 6

1 large or 2 smaller aubergine – washed, cut into large chunks and salted in a colander for 1 hour (this is not to extract bitter juices, but to draw off some of the moisture and intensify the flavour)

1 large or 2 smaller courgettes – washed, sliced into 3cm thick rounds, salted in a (separate) colander for 1 hour

1 large red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, cut in slivers

3 sticks celery, diced

Fresh herbs – I used oregano but you could add basil, mint or shredded sage leaves (in winter use dried oregano)

1kg really ripe tomatoes.  Cut a shallow slit in the bottoms, place in a heat-proof bowl and cover in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Peel and chop. (in winter replace with a tin of chopped tomatoes).

1 cup olives (green or black, choose ones you like), pitted

3 tablespoons brined capers

50g golden sultanas or raisins, covered in boiling water and soaked for 15 minutes

6 salted anchovies (optional)

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Vegetable oil for frying (sunflower is best)

50ml Olive oil for cooking

Extra-virgin olive oil for dressing

 

Method

Start by making the tomato sauce. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and celery. Cook over a medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and starting to colour. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, then add the chopped tomatoes, anchovies (if using) and fresh herbs. Add a few tablespoons of water, turn the heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Drain and rinse the salted veg and dry on kitchen paper. Heat 4-5cm of oil in a heavy-based saucepan or deep frying pan (keep the lid close to hand for safey). Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping in one piece. If it sizzles and floats to the top it’s ready!
Fry the aubergine and courgette in batches, draining on kitchen paper as you go. Give them a few minutes on each side and flip them carefully, you want them to just cook through and colour but not collapse. Save the used oil in a glass jar and use for cooking in savoury dishes.
Add the fried vegetables to the tomato base, add the olives, capers and drained sultanas.
Give everything a good stir, then add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sea salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir again and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, then turn off the heat and let it rest as it cools down. In a heavy-bottomed pan it will retain heat for a few hours.
Just before serving, drizzle with special extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Italian) and sprinkle with fresh basil, mint or oregano for a tableside flourish.

I served mine with pan-fried duck breast but this works well with charcuterie, white fish, roasted meats or poultry, as a bbq side dish, on it’s own as a dip with chunky bread or for breakfast with a fried egg.

 

© Linda Galloway 2020