Tag Archives: Aubergine

A Silky Soup for September

Spiced and Silken Roast Vegetable Soup

A Change in the Seasons

OK, so I was clearing out the fridge, but this is a great way to use the last tomatoes and aubergines of the season, and the first sweetcorn of the next one.

At the moment, we are trying to avoid calorific food, but I am determined that does not mean that we will miss out on flavour. This is easy when you can pack your salads and other dishes with loads of fresh herbs, but as we near the end of the herbs in the garden, I am looking to spices to plug the gap. And they are doing a great job.

My Sister just had her hen do, and I made everyone roasted aubergine with a chermoula spice rub. Partly because I was doing vegetarian, and also partly as part of my quest to make more middle eastern food.

When I found a couple of aubergines in the fridge, I initially thought I was going to make a chermoula and aubergine soup. When you roast or burn aubergine in its skin, it develops a lovely smoky, silky texture, as you can see from Baba Ganoush and similar dips. That was also going to give the soup a richness without the need for fat or cream, which is perfect for how I’m trying to eat at the moment.

As I kept poking, the fridge also relinquished some tomatoes and half a red pepper. In the spirit of not wasting food, I decided that they could go in the soup as well. And since I was already roasting the aubergines, I may as well roast these too, making the oven use more efficient, making it easier to peel the veg, and also to develop a bit of flavour, especially of the later developing vegetables that may not quite reach their full potential.

At this time of year, the sweetcorn are just appearing too. The Big Guy loves fresh corn, and we had a few cobs, though not yet from our garden. Since the soup was to be spicy and smoky, I didn’t want to just let the golden little kernels cook in the soup itself, I wanted them to add to the overall smoky flavour, so I decided to put a cob under the grill until the kernels were browned.

I had also intended to use some preserved lemons to add to the soup, in keeping with the chermoula idea. I was going to chop them fine, and use them to garnish the soup, but when I tasted it, it definitely didn’t need a sour salty note. Instead, I opted for a spoonful of yoghurt, to counter the fact that the chilli I had used was much hotter than expected!

This soup is great for the start of September, as the summer turns to autumn, and the nights get that bit colder. And it turns out that aubergines are great to add creaminess to a soup without the need for dairy too.

Recipe: Spiced and Silken Roast Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines

½ red pepper

6-8 tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic, still in their skins

salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 cob of corn, with the husk removed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp ground coriander

750 ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

Method

Heat the oven to 200 °C

Cut the aubergine and the tomatoes in half. Arrange the aubergines, pepper and tomatoes in an ovenproof dish, and season with the salt and pepper. Slosh over 1 tbsp of the oil, and toss the veg to coat with the oil. You want the aubergine and tomato cut side up; but the pepper skin side up, because you want it to char.

Put in the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on a bit of colour. After about 15 minutes, add the garlic cloves, so that they don’t burn to a crisp. You want them to be golden and soft, not crunchy.

Once the vegetables are roasted, put the grill on high, and put the corn underneath it. You will need to turn it as it cooks. If you have a separate grill, which I don’t, you can do this at the same time, it may take a while.

Meanwhile, dry fry the cumin until it is fragrant, then grind to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar, or a spice grinder.

Sweat the onion in the rest of the oil, until translucent. Add the chilli and cook for another minute on a gentle heat, then add the spices, and just cook through.

Squeeze the garlic from their skins, and add to the spice and onion. Allow to sweat on a gentle heat while you scrape the creamy flesh from the aubergine. Add this to the saucepan, and cook for 2-3 minutes to combine the flavour.

The tomato and pepper should also be really easy to skin as well by now. Mine just slipped off. Discard the skins, as these are indigestible, and hopefully the pepper skin will have blackened and blistered, so will be bitter and unpleasant anyway.

Add the flesh of the tomatoes and the pepper, along with any juices in the roasting dish to the saucepan. Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender or a food processor, until it is smooth and rich.

Run a knife down the corn, to remove the kernels, which should be brown and succulent, not black.

Divide the soup between 2 bowls, add a tablespoon of yoghurt to each, and sprinkle the corn kernels over the top.

Perfect to come home to after a day’s foraging, whether that be outside or in the fridge!

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Signs of Life and an Unexpected Salad

First Anemone

First Flowers

Apart from going to the Neighbourfood Market, I also found some inspiration in the garden this weekend. As always, I was late with getting my broad beans and alliums in. They should get planted before the first frosts so that you get an early crop in the early summer.

We haven’t had any frost yet, as far as I can tell, so I was still able to plant them out, although they will be a bit later than I had hoped. In an attempt to do some decent successional sowing, for once, I have only planted half a bed with beans, so I can plant more later. I also still have onion sets, but no space in their designated beds, so I will plant them in planters when I get some potting compost mixed up. I planted Troy white onions and Onion Electric (red) from sets, and Marco Garlic. I only used the fattest cloves, from the outside of the bulbs. The rest are waiting in my cupboard to have in some dish or another. No point in wasting them! The beans were Aquadulce Claudia and the reliable Sutton.

Primula

Early Colour

I also planted a French leaf salad mix, and some rocket to grow indoors as cut and come again salad, because I need something to use for the 52 Week Salad Challenge, as issued by Veg Plotting. I have decided to join this, because I like to grow my own, and forage for food. Salad leaves grow fairly quickly, so they should be good to help me get much better at the rhythm required for successional planting, which I am not great at. And I hope that it will help me to be more creative when it comes to salad. We eat a fair amount of salads, but they tend to be very samey, so I hope this will force me to think of more diverse things to go in them, and more creative dressings.

Raddiccio & Leaf Chicory

Hidden Gems, not Little

I currently have some rocket, mizuna, endive, perpetual spinach, fennel, beetroots, flat leaf parsley, and some carrots in the garden, all of which can be used as salad leaves, so I have time before my other seeds grow.There should be loads of things already starting in the wild that I can pick, but I won’t get foraging for a couple of weeks. We were also clearing an unloved part of the garden at the weekend, and we found some bonus lettuce in a planter that had seeded itself – a radicchio and I think the green one is a leaf chicory.

I only heard about the challenge when I got back from Australia, so this will have to be a 50 week challenge for me. I may not post about this every week, although I will tweet my pictures weekly. I guess it depends how excited I am about my salad in any given week!

Egg Mayo & Rocket

Salad as Comfort Food

Last week was my first. I was fresh back from Australia, and away from all the lovely fresh, summer produce I cooked with there. I didn’t want a salad in the traditional sense, I think it would have disappointed. Instead, I found myself craving the comfort of an egg sandwich. Nothing goes better with egg mayonnaise than some sharp, peppery rocket. I found that I couldn’t shake the idea long enough to find any other kind of salad inspiration, so that was what I had.

This week should have been altogether more exciting. I had an aubergine that needed to be used up, and I had decided to use that bonus radicchio, although it will be sad not to have it sitting resplendent and red in the brown winter garden.

I made Divalicous’ Aubergine, Tomato and Sumac Salad. I am trying to cook with more spicy food, and I found this one last summer. Do give it a go – sumac can be found in many local stores these days. I left out the tomato this time, because I have no interest in the kind of watery tasteless ones that you can get at this time of year. Instead, I used more flat leaf parsley, added some carrot leaves and upped the amount of dressing. I also served it hot.

I had intended to quarter the radicchio, and put it onto the griddle pan after the aubergine had cooked. I wanted it to char, along with some red pepper, and serve it with a lemon and parmesan vinaigrette. The charring softens the radicchio’s sharp quality, and gives it a nutty flavour. If you try it, be really careful, they will burn in seconds, once they start to char. Slightly blackened edges is what you should aim for, but no more. I would have stirred through some quinoa for bulk.

However, while my back was turned, as I put the first batch of aubergine on, the Big Guy came along, and separated the leaves of the radicchio, making it too flimsy to try to char. So a rethink was required. Inspired  by Divalicious’ mention of fattoush on her salad post,  I decided to make a kind of fattoush sandwich in pita, with the radicchio and aubergine salad on top. It wasn’t as substantial as the other way would have been, but it was really tasty nonetheless.

Aubergine & sumac Salad on Raddiccio

Salad as Improv

Something else that I have found this week is Foodcycle, who collect surplus food, and cook it in a café where you can pay what you can afford. Inspiring stuff, doing things that are close to my heart. I think their project rocks, and they are trying to crowdfund to enable them to keep running. They only need £5k to run for a year, which is a ridiculously small amount for all that they achieve. They have 4 days left to hit this target. If you can, please go along and pledge a little, you won’t have to pay if they don’t hit target, but every little helps, as they say.

Unfortunately, the crowd funding scheme is currently only set up for people in the UK, so if you are outside of that jurisdiction, then you can make a direct donation through their money giving site. I know they are very grateful for all donations as well. Or try and find a local scheme that you can help out. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.

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