Red Camargue Rice Salad

The days of summer are subtly shortening way too quickly, there is a little nip in the air and the sky is clearly beautifully blue. I do relish the prospect of autumn, it's one of my favourite times of year and there is some lovely produce around too. Still too warm for most dishes and frankly, making a stew now would be utterly depressing as winter looms. Salads are wonderful, versatile bowls of happiness. Ever present on our table, I am always looking for new and interesting combinations, especially for grain or pulse based salads. They often need a lot more seasoning as they tend to soak up every bit of dressing and also change once refrigerated. This is a little cracker of a salad, intensely flavoured and sooo moreish. It is inspired by a puttanesca sauce and uses lots of rich ingredients. The dressing can be adapted to your taste and if you're feeling bold, add some marinated anchovies.


1 cup red camargue rice
half a small red onion
250g or punnet cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 tbsp capers
5-8 black olives
small bunch flat leafed parsley
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
juice of half a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

Bring rice to the boil in two cups of water and a pinch of salt, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, the rice should be cooked with a slight bite not mushy. Rinse well in cold water, drain and set aside.  Chop onion and quarter the tomatoes, put into a bowl with the drained rice. Remove the pips from the olives and cut flesh into quarters, add to the mix. Rinse capers if they have been stored in brine or salt and chop roughly, add them together with the garlic and chopped flat leaf parsley into the bowl. Dress with vinegar, lemon juice and a good few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix all together very well without crushing the tomatoes. I always find fingers work best.


Blackberry and Almond Cake

It's the time of year for picking blackberries, the hedgerows are full to bursting with these sweet and sour black jewels. Plump and piquant they are perfect in cakes, crumbles, preserves, jams and really just for stuffing into your mouth at any time. I often get home with a paltry few to spare, their moreishness too irresistible. This cake is fool proof, super easy to whip up and can be made with any fruit, try raspberries or blueberries or combine them all into a berry bomb. The more fresh fruit you use the longer it will need in the oven to bake through to the centre due to the excess water. If you would like a slightly drier sponge, flash the fruit in a pan with some sugar before gilding the cake. This is a dense almond sponge with just the right amount of sweetness offset by the tartness of the fruit. It makes a great tea time treat and keeps well for a few days. It can be served warm as more of pudding or allow to cool completely for full cake effect, serve plain, with yoghurt or cream. 


150g butter, softened
125g castor sugar
150g blackberries
2 large organic eggs
1 tsp baking powder
75g flour
75g ground almonds
2 tbsp flaked almonds

Preheat over to 170 degrees, grease and line the base of a 20cm tin. Cream butter and sugar well with a hand beater or wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add a tablespoon of the flour and beat into the mixture to stop it from separating. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in well. Lastly fold in flour, baking powder and ground almonds. Scoop out mixture into the tin and spread gently to the edges. Litter the top with blackberries and flaked almonds. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin. 


Hummus Perfection

A mind blowing visit to the Holy Land a couple of months ago has left me with an obsession with hummus.... this is not hard as hummus is actually a religion amongst many there. There are tiny shops dotted around called Hummusaria where the freshest, smoothest, creamiest hummus can be ordered with a variety of toppings. The most significant thing is that the hummus is served as a large portion for one person. You have a whole bowl to yourself! None of this measly pot of shop bought hummus to share. Oh no! A large bowl first thing in the morning for breakfast, served with a raw onion (bit early for us), chilli vinegar, paprika and soft soft pita bread... a revelation! Since returning to London I now make an enormous plate of hummus and we eat it warm and fresh from the pot... we cannot get enough of this heavenly stuff. I used to make hummus with lots of olive oil and lemon, which is great but it has always been illusively unsmooth and creamy. I also enjoyed flavouring it with cumin, roasted red pepper, coriander etc. but it is officially the ultimate when very plain made with tahini, lemon and a little za'atar or sumac sprinkled on top. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix made from a combination of dried herbs, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. It can be bought or easily home made. 

Now we come to the question of the chickpeas. Hummus is made from these humble versatile little legumes, the earliest cultivated. They remain a staple of the Middle East and now populate tables across the globe. I grew up on them, not least having a Jewish background but because my mum loves a chickpea like no other. The question about chickpeas and hummus is... to peel or not to peel? Chickpeas have tough skins that are usually the cause of textured hummus, you can boil them for hours and still they will not soften adequately. Even tinned chickpeas do not give the desired consistency. I have tried peeling them at different stages in the cooking process and still couldn't get it right. In Israel they definitely didn't spend hours wasted on peeling tiny legumes. Theirs were plump and completely soft. I finally found the secret to heavenly hummus thanks to the brilliant Ottolenghi, it is the addition of bicarbonate of soda to the cooking process. This is an old traditional technique that helps to break down the pectin molecules in the skins and this in turn makes smooth creamy hummus possible. It's important to soak the chickpeas in plenty of water for up to 24 hours before cooking them too. The most amazing thing is that depending on the freshness of the dried chickpeas you can cook them for as little as 20 minutes! They need to be soft but not mushy, easily overdone so keep a beady eye on them. This is hummus perfection, well as close as it gets. Nothing beats the Hummusaria!


1 cup dried chickpeas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
juice of 1-2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quarter to half a cup tahini
ice cold water
1 tsp salt

Soak chickpeas in plenty of cold water for 12-24 hours, rinse and drain. Heat a pot up and when hot place the chickpeas in with the bicarb, stir continuously for a few minutes. The pot will become quite dry. Cover with 3-4 times the amount of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Drain and allow to cool slightly. Put chickpeas into a food processor and blend until you have a stiff paste. Add garlic, salt and lemon juice and blend well together. While the machine is still running add the tahini, this will make the mixture stiffen up again. Drizzle in a a few tablespoons of ice cold water, this will loosen the mixture and create creamy magic. To make it looser add a bit more water. Blend for 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with cling film, allow it to rest for 30 minutes or so and then drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with sumac, paprika or za'atar. Eat it fresh and slightly warm. If you have refrigerated it, allow it to come up to room temperature before serving or eating.


Super Fiery Slaw

Coleslaw... mmm... it's either love or hate... I am in love! Over the last few months I have been on a mission to emulate a coleslaw that I ate in a tiny American style eatery... tried a variety of different dressings, some of which worked but none had the wow factor. I was out looking for a new book to read and came across the recipe book for Pitt Cu & Co., the very place whose slaw I was so enthralled by! Happy heart indeed! Took some mental notes and vowed to make it immediately. By the time I got home, much was forgotten in memory and shopping except for a few ingredients, definitely got the gist of it anyhow! This recipe is for a magical, scrumptious, serious coleslaw. I have chosen to use red cabbage only and have used much less mayonnaise than I remember being called for. I don't enjoy anything drowning in the stuff as it can be truly overpowering, but it does help to tone down the chilli. This is a sensational side dish and can be eaten immediately or over a couple of days. It is definitely more Asian than American and seems slightly counter intuitive but the flavours work incredibly together. Makes a great side for a summer bbq, perfect with everything else too.

Recipe (adapted from Pitt Cu & Co.)

1 medium red cabbage
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 medium green chilli
zest and juice of one lime
small bunch coriander

Cut the cabbage in half, remove the hard white piece of stem at the bottom and finely slice the cabbage evenly, starting at the top. Place cabbage into a large mixing bowl. Char grill the chilli over an open flame or in a very hot pan. To make the dressing mix together garlic, ginger, sugar, zest and juice of the lime. Add the chilli and blitz it all together, alternatively hand chop the chilli as finely as possible. Add the soya sauce and mayonnaise. You should have a thickish dressing that is really very fiery. Pour over the cabbage and toss together until thoroughly coated. Lastly add in some chopped coriander.


Broad Bean and Lentil Salad

After an awfully long time with no computer courtesy of some ruddy thieves, I am finally managing to publish a post! Thank you all for bearing with me and continuing to read and reference oh so buttery, hope to make up for some seriously lost time! So much to share about travelling and culinary discoveries, I feel I've had a whole lifetime since I last wrote. First, something super easy and delicious...

Summer has finally arrived and London is sweltering, basking in thirty degree heat with no clouds in sight. Almost can't believe it, truly spectacular... picnics at every opportunity!
With this glorious weather comes the most beautiful produce, grown here in abundance. Broad beans are just such a lovely variety of the beans out there. Fat and succulent emerald jewels resting in large puffy pods. They are incredibly versatile, can be added to pastas, salads, made into purees, the list goes on. Here is a salad I make frequently in which any ingredient can be substituted depending on seasonal availability. The basics are always brown lentils, onion of some kind, coriander, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Recently I discovered the joys of adding dried cranberries and radishes. In this version I've used fiery radish sprouts, use regular salad radishes if you can't get your hands on these little babes. Make a large bowl and allow to develop in the fridge for a few hours before eating. It keeps well and gets more delicious over time.


100g brown lentils
60g quinoa, plain or mixed colours
3 spring onions, finely sliced
handful radish sprouts or 6/7 salad radishes quartered
handful dried cranberries or sour cherries or a bit of both
good bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
100g fresh broad beans, podded
juice of 1-2 lemons
lots of olive oil
salt and pepper
small red chilli, finely chopped

Boil lentils and quinoa in plenty of water separately until tender but not mushy, drain and rinse in plenty of cold water. Boil broad beans for about 5 minutes and then plunge into cold water to stop them cooking any further. Remove the skins as these are usually very tough, just tear the skin and pop the bean out. Put all the ingredients into a big bowl and mix together thoroughly, season with salt, pepper and add as much lemon juice and olive oil to suit your taste. The salad should be glossy and have a good balance of flavors. Add more of any ingredient if you feel there isn't enough. 


Hot and Sour Quinoa Soup

Spring should have sprung but the winter weather is just not abating.... it has been truly grim. The shelves are still providing us with various types of cabbage, potatoes and produce flying in from afar. If you are the type of cook who chooses seasonality over variety it has been a very long season indeed! Hot soups and stews are still very much on the menu and I am just longing to eat salads and drink rose in our tiny garden.... alas we must be patient and wait a littler longer.

This soup is a beautiful combination of crunchy vegetables, nutty quinoa and a fragrant hot and sour broth. A version of it was made for me by a friend a few years ago and since then it has featured regularly. I cant actually remember the recipe she used so this recipe is one I have adapted over time. It is so easy to make and is great when the fridge is looking a tad bare and you have the odd carrot and leek lolling about. Quinoa is one of my favourite grains and I cook it far too rarely, this soup brings out its delicious flavour and adds wonderful texture. It is a complete meal in a bowl and lovely with some whole grain bread or crispy crackers. I am ridiculously addicted to Finn Crisp, thin rye crisp breads that I could eat with everything. You can also add a final gilding of yoghurt and coriander when serving. 


1 large carrot
1 medium green leek
an inch of fresh ginger
1 red chilli, sliced
half a tsp fennel seeds
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 Lt vegetable or chicken stock
juice of a lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
60g quinoa
olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare quinoa: two parts water to one part quinoa, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender. In the meantime julienne the carrots and thinly slice the ginger into tiny match sticks. In a heavy saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the fennel seeds, allow to sizzle. Add chilli, ginger and garlic, fry for a couple of minutes until garlic is just turning golden. Add carrots and warm through. Add tomatoes, stock and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes. Add finely sliced leeks and quinoa, again bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes. Keep the cooking time quite short to help the vegetables retain some crunch. Season with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon of sugar if the broth is too tart. There should be a lovely balance between the hotness from the chilli and the sourness of the lemon, adapt to suit your taste.


Bakewell Tart

Living on this grey and green isle has exposed me to the most incredible array of things, not least of which has been to the humble Bakewell tart. It is a traditional English confection which is completely delicious and comes in the form of a rich tart or pudding made from pastry, jam and an eggy almond filling. I love the simplicity of this tart and the satisfaction it delivers is well worth making pastry for. Strawberry jam can be used but this recipe uses raspberry jam for tartness and also calls for lemon zest to lift the richness of the frangipane filling. There are varying recipes, with fillings that are more sponge like and others that are custardy. This once is a luscious affair. It keeps really well for a few days and makes the best tea time treat. It's hard not to smile....

Recipe (Olive Magazine)

125g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
25g castor sugar
1 egg yolk
2-3 tbsp cold water

Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor and blitz until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the egg yolk and a tablespoon of water, pulse again and add more water if necessary until the dough just comes together. Don't over process it, as this will result in tough pastry. Knead lightly and press down into a thick disc. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll out to about 5mm thick and line a 20cm flan tin. Return to the fridge for a further 30 minutes before baking.

150g butter, softened
150g castor sugar
150g ground almonds
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk, beaten
zest of a lemon
2-3 tbsp raspberry jam
1 tbsp flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 190C. Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans or dried beans. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes, remove paper and beans, return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes until the base is cooked through and golden. Remove from the oven and reduce temperature to 180C. To make the filling: cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add egg very gradually to avoid mixture splitting, beating well after each addition. Fold in almonds and lemon zest. Spread jam over the base of the pastry case. If you have a piping bag, fill it with the almond frangipane and pipe the mixture evenly over the jam. Smooth top with a knife. If you don't have a piping bag, cover the jam very carefully with the almond frangipane to avoid the jam from moving towards the sides. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until golden and set. Allow to cool before serving.


Courgette and Aubergine Lasagne

There is something utterly delicious about lasagnes, meat or vegetable. This is a delicate and light alternative to the usual rich and creamy recipes. It has been inspired by my love of melanzane parmigiana and is refreshingly stress free to make. I have used a fresh tomato and garlic sauce, which lifts it from the heavy depths of traditionally cooked ones, and without the need for bechamel there are no lengthly cooking processes. This skinny gem is just layers of grilled vegetables, fresh sauce, grated mozzarella and lasagne sheets. Use good quality egg lasagne sheets, that are as thin as possible, I don't precook them but rather allow the sauce to do the job. Cool for five to ten minutes before serving and enjoy with a salad. 


1-2 large aubergines
2-3 large courgettes
6 medium tomatoes
1 large garlic clove
olive oil
lasagne sheets
mozzarella, grated
sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 200C. Slice aubergines and courgettes into about 5mm slices. Place aubergine slices into a colander with some salt and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. Brush off salt before using. Heat a heavy pan medium to high, grill courgettes and aubergines until golden and slightly charred. There is no need to use any oil, the heat from the pan will help steam the vegetables and after a couple of minutes the slices should come away easily from the surface. Grill in batches and set aside until needed.  In a food processor, blitz together tomatoes and garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, half a cup of water and some salt and pepper. Blitz again.

Drizzle a baking dish with some olive oil and begin to assemble the lasagne. Start with a layer of tomato sauce, layer with a few slices of aubergine and courgette, sprinkle with mozzarella and add another thin layer of tomato sauce. Then layer with lasagne sheets and repeat process another three times. The top layer should have cheese as the final topping, you can add some extra mozzarella and grated parmesan. Finally grind some pepper over the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cooked through, golden and puffy.


Spinach Tart

This tart is my childhood in a dish, it is also the ultimate show stopping spinach and cheese pie. My mum used to make this on most special occasions and she is still well known for it. The other day I was reminded of this stunner when speaking to her, so I made it as a tribute to some of my most precious memories. Nestling inside a crisp puff pastry shell, the filling is a pillowy mixture of spinach and three cheeses in a bechamel sauce enriched with eggs. The key is to bake it in a hot oven so the base is well cooked and crisp too. You can adjust the amounts of feta and cheddar if you prefer something richer, but the quantities below produce a pretty perfect pie. It is best served hot and goes beautifully with a selection of salads.

Recipe (adapted from Myrna Rosen

500g puff pastry
500g frozen spinach
100g feta cheese, crumbled
250g cottage cheese
100g strong cheddar, grated
250ml double cream
250ml milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
half and onion, grated
salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 225C. Roll out puff pastry to about 5mm thick and use about 300g to line a 25cm deep fluted tin or pie dish. Return to the fridge until needed. Keep the rest of the rolled pastry aside under a damp cloth to stop it from drying out. Defrost spinach by heating it on the stove and cool down rapidly in ice cold water. Remove excess water by squeezing spinach out well and set aside until needed. To make the filling: saute onion in butter until soft in a medium saucepan, add flour and allow to cook until the mixture resembles beach sand. Add milk and cream gradually to make a bechamel sauce, keep whisking to avoid lumps forming. Take off the heat and add eggs very slowly, mixing constantly to avoid scrambling. Return to the heat and allow to thicken. Turn off heat, add all the cheeses and the spinach, mix together well and then season to taste. Check the salt carefully as the cheese will also provide much of the salt. Spoon into the pastry shell and spread evenly. Cut the remaining pastry into strips about an inch wide. Create a lattice over the filling using the pastry strips. Brush with egg yolk. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and puffy. Serve hot. 


Welsh Cakes

A friend of mine once told me that a baker who doesn't do currants makes for quite a contradiction. I have always had a difficult time with these tiny dried up grapes and it has indeed taken me a while to accept them and their fatter cousins into my baking bowl. Currants and raisins have long been picked out of every dish and delight since I can remember but no more! I am finally a fan and love their sweet bursts of chewy flavour. 

Welsh cakes are delicious drop scones cooked on a griddle until blisteringly golden. They are simple, made with cupboard staples and are truly scrummy. I found it very hard not to eat them all just hot off the stove. Traditionally they are made on cast iron griddles but if you don't have one of these, any heavy pan with a flat base will do. Make sure the heat is low to medium so they cook through without burning, they do catch quite easily so keep an eye on them. Serve them warm with lots of butter, honey or jam... they are also fab without adornment. We had them for breakfast and for tea, divine!


225g self raising flour
110g butter
75g castor sugar
75g currants or sultanas
zest of half a lemon
1 medium egg
splash of milk
half a teaspoon mixed spice

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in butter until crumbly. Add fruit and zest, mix through. Beat the egg and add it to the mixture, bring into a dough and if it seems too dry add a splash of milk. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick. Cut into rounds with a medium sized cookie cutter or using a glass. Keep re-rolling the excess dough until it has all been used up. Grease the pan with butter and place on a low to medium heat. Cook the cakes in batches for about 3 minutes a side until slightly risen, crisp and golden. If they are browning too quickly turn the heat down.


Ful Mudammas

Whoop! Whoop! I have wanted to make this simple dish for some time now and finally managed to find dried fava beans otherwise known as broad beans or 'ful'. They are the oldest domesticated legumes and have been eaten throughout the middle east and ancient world for hundreds if not thousands of years. This dish is traditionally eaten for breakfast with boiled eggs and is also often combined with chickpeas. There are many ways of preparing it and the beans can be mashed or left whole but the main additions are always garlic, lemon and olive oil. I made mine to go with a vegetable curry and decided to mash half the beans and leave the rest whole. I also added chilli and used fresh coriander as a topping instead of the more traditional flat leaf parsley. Soaking and boiling the beans (which I did) is a seemingly endless process and getting the beans just tender is quite difficult so if you can find tinned beans I would probably suggest using them instead. Oh how I love a bean!


1 cup dried fava beans or 400g tinned beans
1 tomato, finely chopped
small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 lemon
2-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes 
Salt and black pepper

If using dried beans, soak in plenty of water overnight. Drain and bring them to boil in a large pot of water, turn down the heat and simmer for about two hours until tender. Keep a quarter of a cup of the cooking liquid aside then drain the beans and allow to cool. Remove the tough skins from the beans by cutting them gently along the edge and popping the flesh out. If using tinned beans, keep a little of the liquid back, drain and rinse. No need to remove the skins. 
Place beans and the liquid in a pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The mixture should be slightly creamy. Remove from the heat and put half the beans into a bowl. Mash with a fork or pestle until semi smooth. Add the rest of the whole beans, juice of the lemon, crushed garlic, chilli flakes and mix together. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, mix again. Spread onto a plate and top with chopped tomatoes and coriander. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Serve with warm pita or flatbreads.


Genoese Sponge

January's grey skies were just asking for something vibrant to lift our spirits. I found a recipe for a Genoese sponge with fresh fruit. I had never made one of these cakes before, it is quite stunning experience. The eggs and sugar are beaten for 10 minutes over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie) until thick and tripled in volume. Beautiful, airy and light.  A Genoese is a firm sponge, it relies completely on the air provided through mixing to give the cake rise as there are no other raising agents used. Slightly drier than a regular sponge it is traditionally used in tiramisu and can be soaked with syrups or alcohol. It can be topped with fruit and whipped cream, sandwiched together with buttercream or baked in a swiss roll tin to make sponge fingers for a trifle. Easy, extremely satisfying to make and it gives a pop of colour and delight to the coldest days of winter.

Recipe (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

60g unsalted butter
125g plain flour
4 medium eggs
125g castor sugar
Pinch of sea salt

200ml whipping cream
250-300g strawberries or raspberries

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease two 18cm or one 22cm cake tins with butter and dust generously with flour. Line the bases with baking paper. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Sift flour and salt together and set aside. Put eggs and sugar in a large heatproof bowl that will sit snugly over a saucepan of boiling water. The water must not touch the bowl, the steam will warm and help thicken the mixture. Beat the eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until very pale and at least tripled in volume. The mixture should form thick ribbons on the surface. Sift half the flour and salt into the egg mixture and fold in very gently with a metal spoon, repeat with the remaining flour. Carefully pour in the butter and fold in until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the tin or divide between the two tins and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin until the cake pulls away from the sides, you may need to run a knife around the edges to help it along. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.


Melanzane Parmigiana

It's a new year to be filled with many mouthwatering tastes and flavours. Woohoo!! Top of the ultimates is aubergine. I have a serious love affair with them, a vegetable that sadly never made it onto the table in our family due to its apparently awful texture. The only acceptable form allowed were rather deliciously pickled with chilli and garlic. One of my absolutely favourite and scrummy dishes of heaven is melanzane parmigiana. The name is slightly deceptive and there is no definitive answer as too whether it's derived from being made in Parma or made with parmesan cheese. It did originate in Sicily but is cooked all over Italy. There are many different recipes and you can substitute the aubergine with courgettes if you prefer. My version contains no parmesan, is slightly less calorific and has clean distinctive flavours. Layers of char grilled aubergine with roast tomato sauce and melted mozzarella, baked to golden perfection and eaten with crusty bread. We eat this as a main course on its own but is also delicious eaten with meat or fish.

There is much debate about whether it is necessary to salt aubergine once it has been sliced. I generally don't salt it when roasting or frying, but I do salt them for this recipe to remove some of their excess moisture. Aubergines are like sponges and will absorb as much oil as you give them. The trick is to grill them in a dry pan over a medium to high heat and just add a drop of oil to the pan when they begin to colour. This method ensures they cook quickly, lose most of their water and become wonderfully smokey in flavour.

Recipe (serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter or side)

2-3 large aubergines
Variety of ripe tomatoes (I used a handful of cherry and 4/5 vine tomatoes)
2 or 3 shallots
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
Few sprigs fresh oregano
Mozzarella for cooking, coarsely grated
2 tbsp double cream (optional)
Half a cup of water
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper

To begin with, remove tops and slice the aubergines length ways about half an inch in thickness. Discard the first and last slices of peel. Layer the slices in a colander with a little bit of salt between each layer and leave for about 15 minutes. In the meantime preheat the oven to 200C. Cut vine tomatoes in half and keep cherries whole, place in a roasting dish with peeled and quartered shallots, 3 or 4 garlic cloves with skin still on and a few sprigs or oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes until soft, caramelized and the garlic is soft. While the veg is roasting, heat a large pan over a medium to high heat, the pan should not be smoking. Remove aubergine slices from the colander, brush off salt or squeeze them gently to remove some of the water and salt. Char grill the slices in batches by placing three or four in the pan at a time. Allow them to develop lots of colour turning them a couple of times to ensure evenness. Add a tsp of oil to the pan just before removing the aubergine to encourage more colour. Remove and set aside. Repeat. 
When the tomatoes are ready, place them in a small saucepan along with the shallots and garlic flesh. Add some fresh oregano leaves and half a cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft and falling apart. Blitz into a rough sauce. Add cream and a freshly crushed clove of garlic. Season to taste.

To construct the dish: Lightly oil a 20cm casserole dish. Begin by putting 2 or 3 tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the dish, then arrange a layer of aubergine, placing them as close together as possible. Cover with another layer of sauce and then sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat until you have used all the ingredients. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the top and add a few oregano leaves along with some freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.