Sunday, October 27, 2013

A tomato, onion and goats' cheese bake

I cook with onions most days, but it's rare that they move from a supporting role to a starring one. I think of them as a background ingredient. Yet when they take centre stage they can be wonderful.

There's plenty to love about onions - they're cheap, they grow well in this country, and they store quite well too (though the smell of a past-it onion is really not pleasant at all).

I particularly like the way some slow cooking makes them mellower than you would imagine, with a soft, almost melting texture. Baking onions whole in their skins, then peeling and eating them as a side vegetable, is a good way to make them more prominent in your meal.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spicy aubergine with tomatoes and chick peas

Aubergines are a much underrated vegetable, I think. In the cuisines of the Middle East they often have a starring role, but the only aubergine dish that's ever really caught on in British cuisine is the stuffed aubergine, a dish which cannot even be described as unjustly maligned.

Yet aubergines are beautiful, with their glossy black skins, and quite unlike any other vegetable. They perhaps have some similarity to courgettes, with their mild flavour and soft texture when cooked, but the texture of a cooked aubergine has a velvety, melting quality all its own. And their ability to soak up flavours is unparalleled.

In this dish I've matched them with spices to make the most of this ability to soak up flavours, plus tomatoes and chick peas, both ingredients with which aubergines have a natural affinity (see also this recipe). The result is a healthy dish which is quick enough for a weekday supper. If you have leftovers, the flavours will develop so it's perhaps even better the next day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The magic of slow-roasted tomatoes

I bought these tomatoes for a ridiculously small amount of money from a stall on Streatham High Road. Actually, loving a bargain as I do, I bought these and quite a few more besides.

When I couldn't use them all before they went soft, the answer was a long, slow spell in the oven. I'm aware this is hardly a recipe - but I loved how colourful they looked. And the result was exceptionally delicious.

Friday, October 4, 2013

An apple cake for autumn

If blackberries are the fruit that speak of late summer, then apples sum up autumn for me in all its fruitfulness. There's so much generosity about a tree that's laden with fruit, especially a fruit as versatile as an apple.

On a walk last weekend I gathered an armful of windfalls scattered along a footpath. They were a bit bruised, but after a bit of preparation, fine for cooking with. But what to make? I've got quite a few ways of using up a glut of apples - everything from crumble to chutney and even a savoury pie with cheese and onion.

But my all time favourite is apple cake. I've made this cake most autumns for the last ten years, and it was a real pleasure to make it again. It's full of fruit and spices - not the most elegant kind of cake perhaps, but very good.