Monday, 31 August 2009

poached eggs with yoghurt, sage and chilli





i bought the moro cookery book and it seems that all i am cooking at the moment is in some way inspired by it. it feels right for the tail end of this summer, somehow. (ironically, i've only eaten in their restaurant once, even though it's about ten minutes down the road.)

this dish is just something nice and a bit more special to do with eggs for brunch. it was soft and mildly garlicky, with the slightly bitter and very distinct sage flavour. don't be tempted to skip the sage - i do think it's an essential part of the dish.

use turkish yoghurt with ten per cent fat if you can find it - our local shops sells it. if not, try greek but thin it with a little bit of milk. basically, as long as you don't use any low fat stuff, you're fine.

the chilli flakes i used was the turkish kirmizi pul biber - it's less spicy than the normal chilli so less likely to dominate the flavour.

POACHED EGGS WITH YOGHURT, SAGE AND CHILLI
for two

a small bunch of fresh sage, maybe 4 leaves per egg
1/2 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with some salt
150g yoghurt
30g butter
a splash of vinegar
2 eggs
some turkish chilli flakes or paprika
salt and pepper

first, caramelise the butter. place it in a small saucepan and heat gently until it melts. you'll see the milky, white stuff separating from the oil - carry on cooking past this stage, stirring occasionally, until the butter has turned brown and smells nutty. now chuck in the sage and fry it for a few seconds until crispy. fish the sage leaves out and drain on the kitchen paper but reserve the oil.

mix the garlic and salt into the yoghurt. divide this mixture up between two plates or ramekins.

poach the eggs - add the vinegar to some boiling water and slide in the eggs. being back to the boil, cover and turn off the heat. they should be done after a couple of minutes.

while that's happening, reheat the sage-flavoured butter.

drain the eggs and place an egg on top of yoghurt in each ramekin. scatter over the reserved sage leaves and sprinkle with the chilli flakes. spoon the hot butter on top.

if only everything i cook was so photogenic...

Saturday, 29 August 2009

scallops with a pumpkin seed, chilli and coriander sauce


a happy accident, this. one of those dishes that comes together at the last minute, thanks to my well-stocked pantry and the seemingly ever-present stash of fresh herbs in the fridge. oh to have a garden....

it's a rick stein recipe - sort of. cooking is quite democratic in that respect - it's pretty rare that a recipe is actually someone's. more often, it's a permutation of an already existing thing. or just a downright copy in a i-found-it-first kind of a way. look at jamie oliver - he's made a career out of anglicising italian food.

rick's scallops were grilled and his sauce had spring onions and possibly some other stuff in it. but this pared-down version worked perfectly and it was one of the nicest scallop dishes i've ever made. the sauce could be served with other seafood, i think - flash fried squid, or even some nice white fish.

SCALLOPS WITH A PUMPKIN SEED, CHILLI AND CORIANDER SAUCE
for two

enough scallops for two people - depends on how greedy you are and whether it's a starter or a main
25g pumpkin seeds
1 green chilli (or half if you don't like thinks too hot), deseeded
a handful of coriander leaves (i chucked in the stalks too, for good measure)
1 small garlic clove
a squeeze of lime
a small wedge of parmesan - smaller than a cherry tomato (i know, i know, i can't think of a better comparison)
olive oil
a small knob of butter
seasoning

chuck everything except oil in a food processor and whizz until almost smooth. a bit of seed crunch is quite nice. add the oil - maybe a couple of tablespoons, and pulse once or twice just to mix.

melt the oil with the butter in a pan and, when hot, fry the scallops for a couple of minutes on each side. much depends on their side - just don't overcook them. remove from the pan and keep warm.

in the same pan, put all the pumpkin sauce and fry on medium heat - don't burn - for a couple of minutes. pour the sauce over the scallops and season with sea salt.

Friday, 28 August 2009

roast patty pan squash with herb dressing and cobnuts



i should have taken a picture of this squash before i cooked it as i suspect most people will look at the title and go: 'roast WHAT??'. they are the bright yellow relative of courgettes and marrows, shaped a bit like a flying saucer. i got them in my abel&cole box - a great way of acquainting yourself to weird vegetables.

i have to be honest with you - patty pan squash don't taste of very much. they look great but, like a miss world or a supermodel, there's not a lot there once you get past the attractive exterior.

but then, courgettes don't taste of very much either unless you griddle them on a very hot pan and then douse them in good olive oil and chopped chilli. i did think of giving these the same treatment (i have done it in the past) but changed my mind when i stumbled upon a recipe from the chocolate and zucchini blog (http://chocolateandzucchini.com). she makes this with herbed chickpeas, which sounds nice, so this is in effect one half of her recipe.

i have also added the cobnuts just because they needed using up. you can, of course, use other nuts. i think pine nuts would be nice. you could also scatter some fresh, torn mozzarella cheese for a more substantial veggie dish.

i promise you you will not taste the anchovy at all.

ROAST PATTY PAN SQUASH WITH HERB DRESSING AND COBNUTS
for two

2 patty pan squash, cut into wedges
a few chives if you have them - i didn't
a small bunch of coriander
a couple of leaves of mint
1 anchovy in oil, drained (substitute 1 tablespoon rinsed capers if you prefer)
a small pinch cayenne pepper
a little bit of lemon peel (half a strip)
1tsp lemon juice
seasoning
olive oil

put the squash wedges into a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 200C for about 45 minutes. check them after half an hour though - they need to be cooked through but caramelised at the edges.

in the meantime, whizz all the ingredients except oil in a blender, then add the oil slowly until you get the right consistency for a dressing.

serve with the dressing drizzled over the squash.

but then neither do courgettes. i think it's because they are so watery.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

lemon sole with lemongrass butter



this lemongrass butter idea was pretty cool. nothing to it and makes a nice change from just grilling or frying fish. it looks good too - a bright green, fragrant disk of butter melting on the hot fish.

the recipe makes quite a lot of butter but keep it in the fridge and add to other meat and fish.

LEMON SOLE WITH LEMONGRASS BUTTER
for two

6 small lemon sole fillets (if you're greedy)
1 stalk of lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed and core finely chopped
½ lime zest grated finely
2 tsp lime juice
1cm ginger, peeled and chopped very finely
1 tbsp thai fish sauce
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
125g butter - mine was unsalted and not soft, which is the opposite of what the recipe says
salt and pepper

just throw everything except the fish in a food processor and whizz until well combined. then take some cling film and lay it on a flat surface. scrape the butter mixture out of the food processor bowl and deposit it on the cling film in a fat sausage shape. wrap the cling film around it and then mould into a sausage. it's easy as the butter is totally soft. put it in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

grill or fry the fish fillets and, while still hot, slice off some butter as thick as two pound coins and lay on the fish to melt in the heat.

Friday, 21 August 2009

rocket pesto


nothing much to say about this except it's nice. if you like pesto, you'll like this. same premise - leaves, nuts, olive oil and cheese - which you could vary in all sorts of ways. it doesn't taste bitter at all, in case you were wondering.

recipe from the lovely mr mark hix. i'm due for some bone marrow in his restaurant soon, i think.

ROCKET PESTO
you end up with a pot as big as the one on the picture so probably around 400ml or thereabouts

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
50g handful of flat parsley leaves
100g handful of rocket leaves
60g lightly toasted pine nuts
200ml olive oil
salt and pepper
1-11/2 tbsp grated pecorino or parmesan (optional)

whizz everything except cheese and oil in a blender. when thoroughly mixed, start adding the oil in a steady stream. you might not need all of it. mix the cheese in as and when you need it - it keeps in the fridge without it. i actually made it without cheese and it was very nice.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

banana cake

i was in the mood for a cup of tea and some comfort food and this is what i ended up making. it's lovely - not sweet at all (i modified the original recipe to get rid of most of the sugary stuff as i think the bananas are sweet enough) but moist and fragrant with real vanilla. you can of course use vanilla extract. it's also very cake-like, which you don't always get when you don't use flour.

i think this could be made in a loaf tin - i used a sandwich pan. grease and line the bottom just in case, though i suspect it's greasy enough not to stick.

BANANA CAKE

3 cups ground almonds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 cup agave nectar
1/8 cup coconut milk plus a little more
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs, whisked
seeds from one vanilla pod
2 bananas (about one cup) mashed

preheat the oven to 180C. mix the almonds with the salt and the baking powder. in a separate bowl, mix the agave, coconut milk, olive oil and the whisked eggs with the vanilla and the mashed bananas.

stir the wet ingredients into dry and mix thoroughly until combined. add a bit more coconut milk if the mixture seems too dry.

bake at 180C for 40 minutes - though check halfway through and if the top looks like it's browning too fast, turn the heat down a little. it's cooked when the skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

crab and cobnut salad


green cobnuts. no, me neither. but the veg shop sold them and obviously i had to buy them. i had some last year but that was in autumn and it was a different kettle of fish altogether. couldn't tell you how, precisely, but they just tasted very different. more like almonds.

raw, green cobnuts taste like pretty non-descript (nice though) but toasted they're crunchy and sweet - delicious. almost popcorn like. you could chuck them in any salad - i just fancied crab and there is something special about a combination of crab, avocado and chilli.

so this is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion to eat weird and wonderful things you see sold in greengrocers.

CRAB AND COBNUT SALAD
for two

a bunch of watercress or other leaves (rocket would be nice)
1 dressed crab
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/2 chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
3 tbs olive oil
1tbs lemon juice
20 or so green cobnuts (other nuts would be okay, obviously)
seasoning

first, toast the cobnuts. well, actually, first, shell the cobnuts. in my case, this involved a rolling pin and a sore thumb. toast them in a hot oven at 200C for around 45 minutes. keep checking - they go soft at first but then harden a little while later. this is what when they're ready.

next, make the dressing. just mix the olive oil, lemon juice and the chopped chilli, and season.

finally, mix all the ingredients together and pour over the dressing. mix lightly with your hands. that's it.

creamed aubergines

this is either a perfect accompaniment to some slow roast lamb - which is what we had it with (recipe to follow), or the lamb chops i blogged about yesterday. it would also be nice as a dip in its own right, i think. it has that mellow, sweet taste that aubergines get with long cooking. adding the oil at the end makes the whole thing emulsify like a mayonnaise, so the texture is silky and smooth. it was so nice i fancy making some more soon.

the recipe is from simon hopkinson's roast chicken and other stories, which i seem to be using more and more.

CREAMED AUBERGINES
for four

2 large aubergines, peeled and diced
200 ml olive oil
juice of one large lemon
salt and pepper
1 heaped tsp of ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tbs tahini

make a roasting bag out of some tin foil. tear 2 large pieces of foil, place one on top of another, then fold over so you get the beginning of a bag. seal the 2 side edges by folding the foil over several times to the depth of 1cm or so. you're left with a 'bag' with the top still open. chuck the aubergines in, with half of the oil, the lemon juice, the salt and the pepper. bake for an hour or two in a 150C oven until they are completely collapsed. mine took almost two hours but they were old and full of seeds (and a bit bitter, truth be told).

when you think they're done, tip the contents of your 'bag' into a food processor, juice and all, and add the cumin, garlic and the sesame paste. blend until smooth. keep the blender on and add the remaining oil in a thin stream, as if for a mayonnaise. check the seasoning.

you can eat this hot or cold. we ate it warm the first night, but i think i preferred it room-temperature cold with hot leftover meat the next day.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

indian-spiced lamb cutlets


if i were to write a book about my life - a very detailed book, obviously - this week would be titled 'Nausea' and subtitled 'The Week In Which I Lost My Appetite'.

i have eaten, of course, but in a sickly, non-interested kind of a way of a faddish child or an anorexic. eating because you know you have to eat rather than because you want to. i have been opening and closing the fridge door without taking anything out, i have stared at the cupboards blankly, i even tried eating bread and a couple of biscuits just to see if a sugar rush would get me going. (it didn't.) but mainly i have been wondering why and how i can normally spend hours thinking about what i am going to eat for dinner. this week, i almost forgot to eat a couple of times.

in the end, i thought i'd cook something that would normally make me salivate, something irresistible, just to try and coax my tastebuds out of hiding and my get my stomach working again. it had to be something salty and fatty - the kind of thing your doctor would balk at. i had some lamb cutlets in the freezer and i thought they'd fit the bill perfectly.

we've been eating these lamb chops from the local indian takeaway (emni on upper street - it's pretty amazing stuff) and i thought i'd try and replicate them at home. of course, you can't really do that because you need a proper tandoori oven or a barbecue but this was pretty good nevertheless. the secret is to leave the griddle pan to heat up to the point where you think it's not wise to have a lump of metal that hot in your kitchen. just stick it on the highest heat for 10 minutes while you go and do something else(without any oil, or you'll definitely be getting the fire brigade out). it's also best to leave the meat in the fridge for a day or two.

i stole the recipe from another food blog with a great title of hollow legs (www.lizzieeatslondon.blogspot.com). the recipe below is the original one.

INDIAN-SPICED LAMB CUTLETS
for two

4 lamb cutlets
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
2" ginger, minced finely
1 green chilli, chopped finely
zest of a half a lemon
1 tbsp tomato puree

dry fry the cumin, cardamom pods and the black mustard seeds until fragrant but make sure you don't burn them. use a pestle and mortar to grind into a fine powder.

mix with the rest of the ingredients and smear all over the lamb cutlets. leave to marinate.

when ready to cook, heat the griddle pan till very hot, then fry - without any oil - for two minutes on each side for medium rare. leave to rest for ten minutes before eating - it will make all the difference.

the dip on the side is just some creme fraiche mixed with finely chopped mint.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

globe artichoke with vinaigrette

i will struggle to write this post. the fact that i will write it you should see it as a proof of my dedication to bloggery, despite the dearth of recent posting (i do have a life, you know).

in fact, it will be a long time before i can so much as look at a globe artichoke again. and don't mention the eggs: eggs are off the menu for a while.

basically, about two hours after i ate this and some spicy mackerel (the recipe for which you will never see for the same reason), i started being voilently sick. the kind of sick like you are when you're little and you've eaten worms from your garden or not washed your hands after playing marbles in the park. the kind of sick when you lie on the bathroom floor, because you can't make it back to the bedroom, picking mackerel out of your nose and hoping god will kill you now rather than make you suffer more. the kind of sick where you crawl to the living room to get a cushion 'cos your knees are getting sore from the bathroom floor. that kind of sick.

and you know the worst bit? i had a glass of red wine with my dinner. just the one, leftover from the week before. all night i kept throwing up this fishy red mush, as if i'd drank a whole bottle of the stuff. as vomit combinations go, mackerel and red wine is pretty disgusting.

so you see why i'm struggling with this. ironically, i'm sure the artichoke or indeed the mackerel had nothing to do with it. it would have been something i had the day before.

it takes a fair bit to put me off food (i can scrape mouldy bits off bread and don't mind eating things from the floor) but i have to confess that even just looking at the fridge makes me slightly queasy.

but when i try really hard to remember the good bit before the bad bit, i have to tell you that the artichoke is worth trying. i'm not normally that keen on fiddly food, prefering to wolf things down, but it's kinda nice to savour things sometimes.

GLOBE ARTICHOKE WITH VINAIGRETTE
for 2

2 large globe artichokes
1 tbs sea salt
for the vinaigrette:
1 heaped tsp dijon mustard
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 capfuls of white wine vinegar
a pinch of sea salt
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

cut the stalks off the artichokes so they can stand flat on plate. bring a large saucepan of water to boil with the salt, add the artichokes and cook for about 35 minutes. do it for 30, then check - if the leaf comes out easily when pulled, they're ready. if it falls out, it's overcooked. mine took about 35 minutes but they weren't huge.

in a small bowl, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients except oil and mix well. then slowly beat in the oil - not as slowly as you would for mayonnaise but slow enough for it to emulsify - until it's thick and creamy.

eat, leaf by leaf, sucking the succulent bit at the bottom. when you get to the core, get rid of the choke bit - it looks hairy and fibrous - and eat the heart at the bottom. the best bit.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

primal blueprint

i have probably said this already but i have to say it again - i have an aversion to belonging to clubs, societies, parties, groups or gatherings. something in me recoils from being a part of a group of people who all think the same. that's why i could never belong to a political party.

it might seem arrogant - and to a certain extent i admit it is (and childishly so) - but it's also a post-commie hangover. subconsciously, i am suspicious of any attempt to be similar. communism was all about being similar - about no one standing out in any way. (that's why i love this country, incidentally. you could get on the tube naked and most people would just carry on reading their newspaper.)

but there is clearly one club i have chosen to belong to and that's the 'primal' - or whatever you want to call it - eating one. i don't think i talk about it too much on the blog - i think a lot of people don't realise that that's what it is. but every now and again i think it's worth pointing it out.

which is why i thought i'd post a link to a mark's daily apple, one of the websites that probably has the best introduction to this way of eating and exercise. i must admit i read it less and less the more i get the hang of what i should and shouldn't be doing. nevertheless, it's a great site and a great source of information for almost every question you may have thought of asking about 'the primal blueprint'.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-succeed-with-the-primal-blueprint/

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

chicken and sausage one pot meal

elizabeth from cavemanfood.blogspot suggested this recipe when i was looking for things to do with chicken joints. i must confess that if she hadn't, i would never have made it. it sounded slightly odd, and i thought there would be too much mustard. but it was lovely. the pictures make it look like it's been incinerated but it was actually really tasty, full of sweet, crispy bits.

we didn't have any sage as suggested in the original recipe so we just used a bit of parsley. it was good but sage would have been better, which is why i include the original recipe.

actually, i should say rich cooked this rather than me. and, because he didn't think the original recipe was for the whole chicken and we only had what's effectively a half, he didn't reduce the marinade ingredients accordingly. but i think it worked, and i haven't changed his quantities.

CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE ONE POT MEAL
for two

2 small onions
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp english mustard
1 tbs ground sage
1 tbs worcester sauce
1 lemon
4 chicken joints - 2 legs, 2 breasts - on the bone
4 large sausages
fresh sage leaves, chopped

find a freezer bag big enough to hold all the chicken pieces. in the bag (or just a normal bowl if you don't have one) the oil, the mustard, the dried sage, onions cut into chunks, a grinding of black pepper and worcester sauce. cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the mixture, then cut it into eights and all to the bag as well. add the chicken pieces and then squish everything together to combine. leave overnight or even for a day.

when ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200C. transfer everything (including bits of lemon etc) from the bag into a roasting tin, and tuck the sausages around the chicken pieces. sprinkle with fresh sage leaves and bake in the oven until done - probably around an hour and a half, depending on how large your chicken pieces are.

roast summer squash with tomato chilli sauce. or a rant about weddings

i made this once in the winter with butternut squash and real tomatoes instead of tinned ones. i think winter squash works better because it is firmer - so it's probably something you'll want to put off until at least november. once you start eyeing up squash and sweet potatoes at the greengrocer's, you know it's all over. mind you, we've had the kind of summer where you can't leave the house without an umbrella. i keep looking at all my summer clothes, bought in a moment of optimism so divorced from empirical evidence that it hurts to admit it, and wondering when i'll just give in and put them in the cupboard downstairs.

considering saturday morning was another autumn-like day, eating a breakfast as warm, sweet and spicy as this was actually really quite nice. i was on my own and i ate it while looking at dresses for the wedding on the internet. not wedding dresses, you see, but dresses for the wedding.

i don't really know why i am doing this nine months before the event. in fact, the whole wedding thing has become a bit strange, if i am totally honest. i oscillate violently between thinking it is such a ridiculous thing to be doing (i don't mean the getting married bit, i mean the reception - i don't and never have had any doubts about marrying him) and reconciling myself to what looks like the inevitable. as in, if you're going to do it, you may as well do what people expect, even if you are not bothered.

the whole set of expectations that goes with it - the white dress, the cake, the speeches - i genuinely don't get. it's not an affectation, or some firmly held feminist view (though it is tinged with the latter) - i just DO NOT GET IT. honestly. in the same way i don't get why people continue listening to anything that the organised church has to say. i suppose i get people who are religious and who have made the leap of faith and decided that this something, whatever it is, exists. that's fine by me, even though i think the evidence is pretty well stacked against them. but the church - the robes, the hats, the beards, the incense, the ridiculous prohibitions about condoms, the canonisation of saints and veneration of miracles? what the hell is that all about??

i guess i understand the context in which the wedding paraphernalia came about. once upon a time women really were virgins on their wedding night, give or take the odd tart, people believed that throwing grains or rice (now confetti) would bestow fertility upon the couple and that going over the top with decorations and noise would ward off evil spirits. but what exactly is the point of all of this now? it's like believing that it's unlucky to walk underneath a ladder.

i can see my mum rolling her eyes and saying: 'boze, danka, jesi cudna', roughly translated as (exasperated): 'for god's sake, don't be such a weirdo.' she is not a woman with much time for girlie nonsense but i think she secretly likes a bit of pomp and circumstance if the occasion is right. unlike me (and dad, who feels no need to conform to expectations he perceives as ridiculous) - she also has an overdeveloped sense of what's right, in a middle class kind of a way, and that generally means going the whole hog and trying to please everyone.

i mean, i want to wear a nice dress as much as the next woman and - let's face it - probably more, but do i really need to have some flowers artfully tied into a bouquet by a GCSE leaver from maidenhead? or, considering i've lived with this man for 5 years, will not seeing me for one night really make him look at me any differently than any other time i put on a f##k-off dress and heels? i'd like to think not but it seems the world and his wife disagree.

i am determined not to give in though. this means i will not turn into bridezilla and spend sleepless nights worrying about the width of the ribbon on my bouquet or how the colour scheme will work. this might disappoint some - i can guess who they are already - and i'm sure there will be some tutting and a few bitchy comments, but what the hell. i am just really looking forward to marrying the man. (even if he does hate my taste in music - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox6aHGmfxB8 - genius! but do listen till the end.)

oh - and don't expect there to be a cake.


ROAST SUMMER SQUASH WITH TOMATO AND CHILLI SAUCE
for two

1 summer squash (the small, round, orange kind)
salt and pepper
chilli flakes (optional)

for tomato sauce:

1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
a generous handful of chopped coriander

for the squash, preheat the oven to 180C. cut the squash into eights and deseed. put in a roasting tray, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and chilli flakes if using. roast for 45 minutes or until the squash is soft when pierced with a knife and nicely charred around the edges.

for the tomato sauce, heat some olive oil in a small pan, add the garlic, chilli and tomatoes. simmer for 20 or so minutes, or until the sauce is no longer watery. stir in the coriander at the end.

PS if someone can tell me what exactly 'favours' are all about and if they existed before yanks introduced them in an effort to sell stuff, i'd be most grateful.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

moussaka (a la pata markovic)

somehow, i ended up with four aubergines in the fridge after the abel&cole delivery. i can usually think of ways of using one or two - and i briefly considered making a roast aubergine and tahini salad. but you need a hunk of meat to go with it and i'd already taken out some beef mince to defrost. i had vaguely thought about making burgers but then fancied something a bit more substantial.

if you have mince and if you have aubergine, there is only one obvious thing to make - moussaka.

i have tried making moussaka in the past - using both my mum's and other recipes - but somehow the end result was never quite right: too dry and crumbly or too sloppy and wet. and the aubergine always tasted a bit how i think it does to people who don't like them: slightly spongy with hard, leathery skin.

instead of trying the same thing again, i thought i'd go straight to the source, to what is likely to have the most authentic (to me at least, if not to greeks) recipe. so i checked out my grandmother's cookery book and, of course, there it was.

there are a lot of moussakas in pata's book: with kale and chicken (sounds nice), rabbit meat (even nicer), courgettes with cheese, green beans, and so on. the idea behind all of them is the layering of vegetables and meat, and - as i discovered - generous quantities of beaten egg with creme fraiche to lubricate the whole thing. also, it's not for the fainthearted - you need a lot of olive oil to fry the aubergines.

i did change a few things - i didn't use flour and breadcrumbs for the aubergines so i just dipped them in beaten egg and fried them. i also didn't use any pork mince - she uses two thirds beef and one third pork which makes sense as it's fattier and stops the whole thing from drying out. i didn't have any so what i used was some organic, grass fed beef steak mince. it's great stuff - with a flavour totally unlike normal mince. sweeter, somehow, and also redolent of pastures and, well, cows. the kind of smell vegetarians would object to: slightly bloody, too.

this time, the end result for almost perfect. it was just slightly too wet - which is why i suggest you deseed the tomatoes below. but the flavour was amazing. i think the grass-fed meat makes a huge difference, as does battering the aubergines first. also, the whole egg-creme fraiche thing is a revelation - my mum and my grandmother would have used it a lot but it's just not something that's common here. in fact, the smell of the dish in the oven reminded me of my granny's kitchen.

a fitting end to a week which included a gig by goran bregovic. so, if you make this, eat it while listening to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg44qKSbsdQ&feature=related

MOUSSAKA

for four (or even five if you have side veg - plain tomato salad would be nice. i had piles of quickly braised swiss chard)

4 aubergines, thinly sliced lengthwise, slightly thicker than a pound coin
750g beef mince or 2/3 beef, 1/3 pork
1 onion, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, deeseded and chopped
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
2tbs finely chopped parsley
5 eggs
200ml (one small tub) creme fraiche

first, salt the aubergine slices and leave to drain for at least an hour. i have no idea if this makes any difference but i thought i'd listen to pata and do it properly.

while that's happening, fry the onions, pepper and tomatoes in hot fat - lard would be best but i used olive oil. add the chopped parsley, then the meat and fry until the meat is browned and the mixture is no longer wet. i think this would take some 10-15 minutes. make sure it doesn't dry out too much though. when it's done, take it off the heat, leave to cool a little then season and mix in one egg. leave to stand while you make the aubergines.

drain the aubergine slices and pat them dry with a kitchen paper. do it thoroughly as this allows you to skip the flouring bit - flour is used to soak up residual moisture. in a deep-sided plate or another dish, beat 2 eggs. dip aubergine slices in the egg and then fry in hot olive oil for about 2 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of your aubergine slices. they should be golden brown and soft inside. you can always take one out to taste - i see this as a chef's prerogative and think i probably ate 5 of them while cooking. obviously you'll have to do this in batches so drain the finished slices on some kitchen paper.

when it's all done, you can put the dish together. first, beat two eggs in a bowl with the creme fraiche. now use an earthenware dish or just a pyrex one, and start layering: first the aubergines, then some meat, then about a quarter of the creme fraiche mix sprinkled on top as you would in lasagne, then another layer of aubergine slices, more meat, more 'sauce', and finally the last layer of aubergines, and the rest of the creme fraiche mixture. you might need to press the whole thing down with your hands before you pour the last bit of the creme fraiche so it doesn't escape down the sides of the dish.

bake in a hot oven - 180C - for about 45 minutes or until the whole thing is golden and bubbling slightly underneath.