07 August 2017

Imam Bayialdi

I had this in a Turkish restaurant in Bielefeld for the first time – and I think it was the idea behind the name of the dish, “the Imam fainted” that attracted me to it. It is a lovely way of doing aubergines, it tastes great hot, but also as a cold dish. Oh, and the story where the name comes from is a little confusing, whether it is the taste or the woman who served it that caused the swooning or whether, if you leave the ends on the aubergines it looks like a recumbent imam with the end being the hat, explanations abound.

What you need

  • 3 medium-sized aubergines
  • seasalt for rubbing the aubergines
  • 2 good-sized onions
  • 2 – 5 cloves of garlic, a matter of taste, methinks
  • olive oil
  • 0.3 litres of tomato passata (or more), or the equivalent in fresh tomatoes, deseeded (possibly skinned) and finely chopped
  • 1 handful of raisins (not pictured, sorry)
  • 1 tsp of “mixed spice” (includes cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • 1 small piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 large tblsp of honey
  • oregano (or better Greek rigani) to taste
  • 1 lemon (only the juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do

  1. Trim the stalks if the aubergines and cut them in half length-wise (there are many different suggestions for other ways of cutting them, by the way), salt the cut generously with sea salt and leave to sit for 30 minutes. This may get rid of the bitterness that some people don’t like in aubergines.
  2. In the meantime, quarter the onions and slice them finely, crush the garlic and sauté both in a generous amount of olive oil, stirring without letting it brown.
  3. When the onions are limp, add the tomato passata, the spices and the raisins and keep stirring. Add water (or white wine, which I like, but it isn’t traditional!) and simmer gently for the remainder of the 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the excess salt from the aubergine halves and hollow them out shallowly. Chop the trimmed aubergine flesh and add to the onion mixture. (Preheat the oven to 175 to 200°)
  5. In olive oil fry first the flesh and then the skin side of the aubergines till the inside is browned and the skin has gone a bit wrinkly. Wisdom has it that they should then be dried with kitchen paper, but I like their olive oily succulence.
  6. Place them in an ovenproof dish.
  7. Now add the honey and the lemon juice to the onion mix and make sure it is relatively liquid.
  8. Pour it into the hollows of the aubergines and between the gaps, then place the dish in the oven and simmer for as long as you have patience, 20 minutes at least.
Tastes great with some saffron rice.  

06 July 2017

Raspberry / Cassis Sorbet

As every summer our soft-fruit bushes are producing a bumper crop of berries. Apart from freezing them whole or their pulp to mix into yoghurt, to make a coulis or a desert in winter one delicious way of using them up are sorbets. The following recipe can be done with any soft fruit, but it calls for a bit of flexibility with the sugar syrup and the optional ingredients. Alcohol inhibits freezing and prevents large ice-crystals from forming as does frequent stirring during the freezing process. However, if you want a “granita” you stir less and once the mix is hard, you shave it into the serving dishes.
If you heat the fruit first (without water) or not is a matter of preference with little impact on the flavour, but with tough-skinned fruit like black currants the extraction of the pulp is easier.

What you need

  • 500g fruit pulp (I put this through the smoothie extractor, but any food mill that retains the pips will do)
  • 150 – 200 g sugar (blackcurrants / cassis are rather tart, so you may increase this amount)
  • 250 ml water
  • optional for raspberry sorbet:  grated zest and juice of half a lemon
  • optional for cassis sorbet: 100 – 200 ml Crème de Cassis liquer (easy to make, see here); reduce the amount of water by the amount of booze...

What you do

  1. To pulp the fruit use a smoothie maker or a food mill to ensure that pips and skins (cassis) are left behind.
  2. Boil the sugar and the water for about 4 minutes into a syrup, leave to cool a bit and mix into the pulp.
  3. Add the optional ingredients, the lemon juice and zest for the raspberry, the  Crème de Cassis for the cassis sorbet.
  4. Precool either in the fridge or in the deepfreeze.
  5. Put in an ice-cream maker, which stirs the mixture and prevents large ice crystals from forming.   
  6.  If you haven’t got an ice-cream maker, put the sorbet mixture into the deepfreeze; about every 2 hours use a hand-mixer to keep stirring the increasingly slushy mixture until it is formable with a spoon or a spatula. At this stage it would be ready to serve.

You may freeze it for later, but put it into the fridge at least an hour before serving to allow it to soften. Serve with a sprig of peppermint and a drop of corresponding eau-de-vie or liquer.