Nothing Special

This image has been shrunk,
following the realisation that
it may be the sloppiest pic. ever.

This was my dinner on 04.01.13. It’s nothing special. I snapped it in a solipsistic but also salutary spirit to say, Happy New Year! We made it through the portentous winter solstice to 2013 and life goes on. As they say in Zen: ‘Before enlightenment: chop wood, boil water. After enlightenment: chop wood. boil water.’

On this plate: griddled aubergine in blackbean sauce; mushroomy rice; broccoli florets. I have a heavy, ridged cast-iron griddle on my stove top, which is a wonderful thing, but you could use a heavy-bottomed pan. Cut the aubergine into thick 1cm slices and coat one side liberally with good olive oil. (I usually have at least two olive oils on the go, the virginal good stuff for flavour and a lighter one that I cook with). Pour some oil onto a plate and put the cut aubergine pieces into the oil, leaving them to soak it up for ten minutes or so. Then place the dry side down onto the hot griddle pan. The oil will be drawn into the sliced aubergine as it cooks. Turn the slices and baste them with more oil, using a brush or your finger. Try to keep the oil on the vegetable and off the griddle, where it’ll burn malodorously.

For the rice, I used Tilda Wholegrain Basmati, which cooks quickly and easily. I idly read the instructions on the packet and they speak of volumes of water and straining, but I usually just cover the rice with two-and-a-half times its volume of cold water, using the same measure, bring it to the boil in a covered pan (I’ve got one with a glass lid, which is handy) and turn the heat down to simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. While this was going on, I cut up maybe half a dozen mushrooms into wedges (my one-handed knife technique is coming on well, in the seasonal absence of my Glamourous Assistant). I sauteed the mushrooms in butter and sesame oil, then added the cooked rice to the frying pan to amalgamate the flavours.

Repeat readers may know of my maxim that few dishes are not improved by the addition of a handful of frozen peas and this is very obviously applicable in the case of mushroomy rice! Finally, I finished it with a few drops of tamari and also stirred in a smear of blackbean sauce.

I have a bit of a thing for Ken Hom’s Blackbean Sauce (for Tesco). Not only am I not ashamed of this, but I don’t mind telling you that Tesco is offering a significant discount if you buy two jars of ‘Ken’s own savoury and full flavoured sauce made with black beans, ginger and garlic’ before the end of January. What you choose to do with this information is your own affair.

Finally, I steamed broccoli florets in the non-stick frying pan (having returned the rice to its cooking pot) using this technique I’m developing: I put a splash of water in the pan with a teaspoon of minced garlic ‘n’ ginger (from a jar), bring it to boil, add the florets, loosely cover, boil off the water to cook them and finish with a knob of butter or jigger of oil, cooking on for a minute or two to slightly sear the still-crunchy florets. I have to confess that it’s not quite working perfectly, yet, but I’m still experimenting;-)

Elsewhere in my kitchen, the under-reported quest for the ultimate frijolemole continues, my latest effort incorporating quite a lot – too much – double cream left over from my neighbour’s New Year’s Eve chilli, as seen in the pic. There are various issues, but that’s another story. I’ve also been trying a jar of pieces of char-grilled aubergine in sunflower oil from Morrison’s, here served with some capers. These have a peculiarly chewy texture, unlike my griddled beauties, which fair melt in the mouth.

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