Beat the winter blues with an aubergine feast
For a few years now, my wife Jemima and I have tried to eat more ethically: eating very little meat, and mostly seasonal vegetables. On the whole, this has been a liberating experience. Rather than limiting my cooking, the restriction on ingredients has forced me to be more creative.
But there are times when I gaze into the veg box at this time of year and sigh for summer.
Everything is beautiful – don’t get me wrong. The beets are tight and hard, their stalks red and glossy like painted nails. The greens are robust and the water forms pert bubbles on their waxy surface when I wash them. And I love the way the peeler draws neat orange lines in the muddy brown skin of the carrots.
Generally the longing for something soft and sun-kissed passes, but when it doesn’t, I sneak down to the Turkish cornershop at the end of our road to buy some evil, air-freighted tomatoes or an aubergine and treat us to a rare fix of unseasonal summer.
If you suffer from similar cravings, today’s trio of aubergine dishes should sort you out. They are all based on recipes Jane has brought back from annual summers in Puglia. She ate the salad and the “cakes” in one of the jumble of houses perched on a cliff edge in the crazily picturesque Polignano a Mare last year. The polpette are a speciality of the area. Together, they’ll deliver a little hit of sunshine to help you through this bitter February.
Incidentally, if you want to taste these dishes in situ, Espressino Travel, who often help with this column, run wonderful culinary tours of Puglia.
Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter