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A dish with flavour that packs a punch: for winter.

I went out - to walk to the shops - at 2.30 in the afternoon and it was like early evening. Black clouds hung low and dripped like wet blankets pinned to a clothesline.

I walked up the hill from the front gate and around the corner into a street of mainly 1930s and '40s timber cottages with neat front gardens. It was so dark you could see lights on in their front living rooms, through the sash windows and lace curtains and holland blinds. They looked warm. You could imagine old ladies in there sitting by the gas fire and knitting socks.

The market was busy. People shop to keep warm. I bought some eggplants to bake and a few other necessities. It rained on the way home. I took off my coat at the front door and hung the umbrella on its hook and took off my shoes and went to the kitchen.

Stuffed eggplant with olives, anchovies and capers.

What's the best thing to stuff an eggplant with? Another eggplant, according to a book I pulled off the bookshelf, at random, about cooking in Naples. Eggplant enlivened with other ingredients, of course.

I tried it. It was good. Why Naples? I don't know. It was in the book. It could have been about Wellington or Toronto or Nairobi or Aberdeen, but it wasn't, it was about Naples. And eggplants.

Take three large eggplants. We will use the pulp of all three to stuff the shells of two.

Cut two eggplants in half lengthwise and remove the pulp, leaving a half-inch shell. Chop the pulp. Peel and chop the third eggplant. Place the pulp of the first two and the third chopped eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt, along with the insides of the shells. Rinse all after 30 minutes. Squeeze pulp to remove excess water.

Heat a quarter cup of olive oil in a large pan and add the eggplant pulp. Stir until it begins to brown - 15 minutes - and then stir in two large cloves of garlic, a can of drained diced tomatoes, half a cup of black pitted olives, a dozen or so anchovy fillets, a quarter cup of capers and a teaspoon of dried oregano. Salt to taste? I shouldn't think so, it's already loaded with salt; but then, I'm not from Naples. Pepper to taste. I'll be heavier handed here. Continue cooking for five minutes, stirring.

Now fill the shells with the mixture and place them in an oiled baking dish so that they are snug. Take some fairly coarse fresh breadcrumbs and muddle it with some more olive oil. Press this bread-and-oil mixture over the shells. Now bake - hot oven, about three quarters of an hour.

Let cool slightly before serving with polenta, ribbons of home-made egg pasta, a basic risotto with cheese and butter and saffron, or mashed potatoes. The eggplant is so powerfully flavoursome that if you put anything else more than bland on the same plate, they would fight, like two boxers in an illegal match in a back street of Naples.

Comments

  1. It really isn't fair. You are writing about all these yummy winter dishes, and we're at least three months from seeing our first decent, fresh eggplant. Phffft. I'll have to start only reading the archives from 6 months back so our seasons match.

    This sounds wonderful - I will certainly be giving it a try when the weather turns.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know I've said this before, but it's so surreal to read about your winter when the air-conditioner is blasting in my office. But comforting somehow.
    I love the clouds/dripping blankets simile.

    ReplyDelete

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