Bex and Jen came for dinner last night and as they are both amazing cooks and very into food, chefs and cooking I was keen to try something new to impress them! I’m going through an aubergine phase at the moment – I cant get enough of it. Last week Elix and I had moussaka, tomorrow night I am making aubergine, ricotta and tomato pasta and last night I cooked Nigel Slater’s Warm Aubergine tarts from his Kitchen Diaries ii book to start our meal off. A light, crunchy cheesy pastry makes the base, topped with a creamy aubergine spread and roasted onions and aubergines. Nigel suggests topping with anchovies and capers so I obviously, generously obliged. Another option which he says works well are olives. I think next time I might also try roasted tomatoes and peppers with a tiny sprinkling of goats cheese or feta.
The recipe sounds quite odd and the picture isn’t the prettiest but I thought i would give it a go as it combined aubergines with my other food heaven anchovies. It went down a treat and I will definitely be cooking it again so I thought I would share the recipe with you as it was a perfect starter – light, tasty and easy to make.
Aubergine Topping Pastry
Aubergine – 600g cubed Butter – 80g cubes
Large Red Onion finely sliced Self Raising Flour – 120g
Garlic – 2 cloves crushed Mature Cheddar grated – 40g
Olive Oil Parmesan finely grated – 50g
Thyme – 4 sprigs One Egg Yolk
Anchovies Milk – 1tbsp
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Place the aubergine cubes, sliced red onion, garlic and thyme in a roasting dish and top generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Ensure all is coated and pop in the oven to roast until the aubergine is tender – this took me about an hour.
Whilst the aubergine is in the oven make the pastry. If you don’t have time or cant be bothered a ready made puff pastry scattered with parmesan will also work.
Mix the butter and flour together to the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the cheeses, egg yolk and milk and mix together to form a smooth ball – knead for only a minute, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge to chill for half an hour or so.
Once the aubergine is tender, remove from the oven and put two thirds of the mixture into a food processor, combine into a paste and add olive oil until the paste is smooth and soft enough to spread.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and split into 8 pieces (for 8 servings). Roll out thinly into rectangles. You can see from my picture that mine look “rustic”. When i was rolling the pastry out it was quite hot in the kitchen and so it took me a while to get the pastry rolled thinly enough without breaking – I like rustic anyway!
Pop the pastry slices into the oven on a paper lined baking tray for 10-12 minutes until golden. Don’t forget, when you take them out of the oven they will be quite soft (like a biscuit) but harden as they cool – so don’t over-bake them waiting for them to crunch up.
Once out of the oven, spread the pastry with the aubergine mixture and pop the aubergine and onions on top. Top with capers and anchovies (or whatever topping you fancy!) and serve!
I was quite surprised that the aubergine, cheese, anchovy mixture worked well but the saltiness of the anchovies and capers balances against the earthy, almost mushroom taste of the aubergine. As for the cheesy pastry, the richness of the cheddar and parmesan is balanced by both the sweetness of the onion and the saltiness of the anchovies. The whole dish is delicious with each and every ingredient complimenting the others ensuring clean plates at the end!