Tuesday 20 August 2013

The tomato salad that turned into an aubergine bake

You'll have to allow me the pleasure of crowing about this dish - a rescue remedy for a leftover tomato salad.

I'd always taken the view that salads were unrescuable. Of course you could finish off the leftovers but not turn them into anything else. Or nothing that my husband would eat anyway, having an aversion to cold soups like gazpacho.

But we had so much left over I couldn't bring myself to throw it away so I tipped it into a pan and just simmered it until it took on a jammy consistency. And you know what? It didn't taste bad.

I then decided to use up another couple of leftovers - a couple of aubergines and some Comté to make an aubergine bake which would have actually fed 4 at a pinch, certainly three but the two of us scoffed the lot. Here's roughly how it was done

2 medium sized aubergines
About 300g leftover tomato salad cooked down to a sauce or homemade tomato sauce made from 1 onion cooked in a little oil until soft,  1-2 crushed cloves of garlic and 1/2 a 400g can of chopped tomatoes
Any stray herbs - I had a bit of fresh basil
About 4-5 tbsp olive oil
75g-100g Comté, Gruyère, or other leftover cheese plus a little parmesan if you have some
Salt and pepper

Cut the stalk off the aubergine and slice into 4 lengthways. Salt generously and set aside for half an hour or so. Cook down the tomatoes or make a simple tomato sauce - or even use a jar of pasta sauce if you have one knocking around that needs using up. Add a bit of extra garlic and chopped herbs if you like.

Rinse the aubergines and pat dry with kitchen towel. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan and fry half the aubergine slices until browned, turning them a couple of times. Press them against the sides of the pan as you remove them to let as much oil run out as possible and repeat with the remaining aubergines. Warm through the sauce and adjust the seasoning.

Heat the oven to 200°C. Lay half the aubergines in a shallow dish and top with half the sauce and grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with some grated parmesan if you have some. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes and bingo - there's your parmigiana. (Actually, you might want to flash it under the grill for an extra-crisp topping and grate over a bit more parmesan to serve. Oh, and a green salad on the side wouldn't go amiss.)

What's your most triumphant use of leftovers?

Monday 12 August 2013

Are fritters the way to get fussy kids to eat veg?

Coincidentally I came across fritters twice last week - once in Caroline Conran's superb 'Sud de France' which I've been working my way through down in the Languedoc, the other at a neighbour's house when she invited us over for an impromptu lunch. And the dish that her grandchildren tucked into most avidly was the courgette (zucchini) fritters.

Of course I'm not suggesting you fry every vegetable in sight to get kids to eat their greens - and other veg for that matter - but you have to admit it's a good way to win round recalcitrant eaters. And they're cheap. You can have them on their own with a dip or salsa or as an accompaniment to stretch a piece of meat or fish.

Having mastered courgettes I then tried some Santorini-style tomato fritters but they were a great deal more fiddly and no tastier, to be honest. And with courgettes bang in season at the moment, I reckon that's the place to start your fritter-frying. Here's my slightly tweaked version of Caroline's recipe. She just used onion so you don't have to add the garlic, chilli and mint if you don't want though I like the kick it gives them.

Courgette fritters
Serves 2-3 adults or a couple of adults and 2 kids

350g courgettes
4 tbsp sunflower oil or other oil for frying
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint or a good pinch of dried mint or herbes de Provence
2 eggs
2 rounded tbsp plain flour, sifted
Salt and pepper

Wipe and top and tail the courgettes and grate coarsely. Put them in a colander and salt generously. Leave for 20 minutes then rinse. Take handfuls of the courgettes, squeeze and place on a clean tea towel. Twist the tea-towel to extract as much liquid from the courgettes as possible.

Meanwhile heat a tablespoon or so of oil and soften the onion in it for about 10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic towards the end of the cooking time then the chilli flakes and mint or other herbs, if using. Tip onto a saucer or plate and set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs and add the sifted flour bit by bit, whisking as you go. You want a thick-ish batter. Season with pepper.

When you're ready to serve the fritters, mix the grated courgettes and onion mix into the batter and add a little salt. Heat the remaining oil over a moderate heat and fry the fritters in batches - about 4 tbsp of mixture to the pan. Flip them over after about 2 minutes and cook the other side. When they're nicely browned and crisp transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen towel to drain off the oil and serve as soon as possible - with fish or meat as suggested above or with tomato salsa or tzatziki (cucumber and yoghurt dip) which would also work well.

I reckon you could add a tablespoon or two of grated parmesan to the mix if you have some or even some crumbled feta for a more substantial meal.

Do - or would - fritters go down well with your kids?