I have previously praised Rukmini Iyer’s ground-breaking ‘The Green Roasting Tin’ for the variety of its recipes and their ease of execution. That said, Ms Iyer, like most of her profession, is disingenuous about some of her prep times. ‘Ten minutes’ might be viable with a sous-chef but I need at least quarter of an hour for anything that involves peeling a butternut squash. That one gripe apart it’s a brilliant book. Rukmini is a magpie, happy to take inspiration from diverse cultures and cuisines in a way that a more seasoned scribe might not.
The inspiration this month comes from Sicily in a dish inspired by caponata – a magical amalgam of slow cooked aubergines, tomatoes, onion, olives, garlic and capers. I think it makes a perfect supper for the dog days of Summer, evocative of sunshine and warmth but also soothing and quite substantial. The text calls for 800g of ‘baby’ aubergines which I interpreted as 5 small-ish ones which seemed about right. You cut them into (about 6) lengthways wedges each and rub them with garlic before seasoning with olive oil and sea salt. You then add a red onion (sliced in eights), two crushed cloves of garlic 3 sprigs of rosemary and roast everything in a shallow roasting tin for 40 minutes at 180°C in a fan oven.
When the 40 minutes are up (I turned the aubergines over after 20 minutes to ensure even cooking) you then add two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes, two teaspoons of red wine vinegar, 25g of capers and 75g of pitted green olives. I was generously approximative in those measurements, which was fine. You then stir everything together and give the dish a further 20 minutes in the oven before serving in shallow bowls with bulgur wheat or focaccia although I opted for long grain rice.
Before serving you add 30g of toasted almonds and 25g of torn fresh basil.
My one departure from the creed was to add a teaspoon of crushed chillies when seasoning the aubergines to give some gentle heat. I’m sure Rukmini wouldn’t disapprove and my (seldom forgiving) tasting panel gave me ‘8/10’ which I’ll happily take.