I have been baking batches of cookies today. This started as a tryout of NY Times’ Peanut Butter-Miso Cookies but I felt an overwhelming need to simplify the process as I made my first batch. This turned into second and third batches. In the end I have lots of cookies and an adapted recipe which will be in the next post.
I am looking forward to the weekend, with a planned walk in Kew Gardens on Saturday and lunch at Barrafina on Sunday. The pandemic is still with us and changes can happen at short notice, so I don’t make plans more than a week or two in advance. Having something for the next 48 hours is already a good start.
Tonight’s dinner is quick to make and is based on Pasta alla Norma from the Ottolenghi SIMPLE cookbook. I made it once before when I had four aubergines in the vegetable basket. The sauce turned out so wonderfully rich and tender that we could not believe how simple it was to make. Which is precisely the point of the book.
The game changer for me was slicing and roasting the aubergines in olive oil before adding it to some tomato sauce. This makes things very logical and time efficient, as the recipe shows. Today I only had two aubergines and this got me thinking of using other vegetables instead. I used three colourful peppers and can suggest sliced Portobello mushrooms as well. This is why I have called this dish Friday Night Pasta instead of Pasta alla Norma. It might not be an imaginative name but I hope it describes the possibility of eating something good at the end of a long day.
Use 1 kg aubergines OR 500 g aubergines and 500 g of another vegetable like sweet peppers or Portobello mushrooms
For the Pasta and Sauce:
1 kg aubergines
500 g aubergines and 500g sweet peppers / 500 g Portobello mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
¼ – ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (I used chipotle chilli)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 x 400 g tins of chopped tomato
¼ – ½ teaspoon unrefined caster sugar
½ – 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
20 g fresh basil leaves (I only had parsley today)
mature pecorino romano or ricotta salata, for serving
How to Make:
Preheat the oven to 220 C / 200 C fan.
Pour a generous amount of olive oil on a large and flat baking tray.
Peel off long alternating strips from each aubergine, then cut widthways into 1 cm strips.
Place the aubergine slices on the tray and drizzle on more olive oil.
If you are using peppers or mushrooms, slice these thickly and roast in the same way as the aubergines.
Roast for 25 minutes.
Make the tomato sauce whilst the aubergines are roasting.
Heat a large saucepan and pour in some oil. Add the garlic, chilli and oregano, stirring a little before adding the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper.
Leave on medium heat to reduce and thicken.
When the aubergine (and peppers / mushrooms) is ready, stir it into the sauce. Leave this to simmer whilst you cook the pasta. I used a shape called casarecce which is possibly my favourite short pasta shape.
The pasta is cooked until al dente, which means it has a bite to it and is not soft. Strain the pasta and retain some of the cooking water.
Add the pasta and basil to the sauce, give everything a good stir and allow the pasta to finish cooking. Add a bit of the reserved water if you feel the sauce is too thick.
The original recipe suggests serving the pasta with some shaved mature pecorino romano or ricotta salata cheese. If you omit this then the dish is suitable for vegans.
Ottolenghi SIMPLE by Yotam Ottolenghi, published by Ebury Press, ISBN 978-1785031168. I made a complete dinner from this cookbook two weeks ago and cannot recommend it highly enough.