Barbecue season shouldn't be all grills and salads. Eggplant stew might sound an unlikely addition to an al fresco meal, but this is sensational, hot or cold, although I do prefer it hot.
It's dead easy to make. After all, ease of preparation is the key to outdoor dining. Something that you can throw together in between enjoying an ice-cold beer as you watch the sun sink and the shadows grow longer. Or the cricket if you're a couch potato and you have aircon and you happen to like games that go for five days.
I did this the other night. First, I sliced an large unpeeled eggplant into one inch cubes, using my sharpest knife and being careful. Eggplants are slippery and you need a very sharp knife to cut an eggplant with its skin still on. I'm only saying this because I nearly lost a finger once.
Then I sliced a red capsicum into one inch strips and an onion into smaller pieces and threw the lot into a large heavy-based pot along with: a tablespoonful of olive oil, twenty pitted fat black olives, the same number of walnuts, a can of diced tomatoes, a scored clove of garlic and twenty crushed peppercorns. (Be sure to pit all the olives - I bit on an unpitted olive in this stew once and nearly lost three teeth. I said this recipe was easy, I didn't say it was safe.)
I set the lidded pot onto the lowest heat and gave it a desultory, who-cares kind of stir when I remembered, probably when fetching another beer. The eggplant just kind of melts down.
It simmered slowly for an hour or so. We ate some that same night as a side with barbecued chicken (marinated in tamari, ginger, garlic and lemon juice) and the other half the next night. It improves with time. All the flavours have intermingled by then and become more complex, like the characters in a book.