Aubergine Slices with Walnuts and Garlic

Aubergine Slices with Walnuts and Garlic

This Georgian-influenced meze is known as Cevizli Patlican in Turkey. It is simple to make and tastes delicious, despite the prodigious amounts of garlic involved. You certainly won’t be bothered by vampires after this dish, but gently frying the garlic and mixing it with walnuts mellows the flavour a lot. Try to get hold of walnuts that have not been stored for too long as they can taste bitter, but this can be compensated by blanching briefly and drying well in a very low oven.

Summary

Makes: 4 starter portions
Total Time: about 40 mins

Ingredients

2
60g
6 cloves
.
.
1 handful
Decent-sized aubergines
Shelled walnut halves
Garlic (more or less depending on tastes)
Good olive oil
Nice wine vinegar
Chopped parsley
Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 240°C. Wash and dry the aubergines. Chop off the stalk and cut lengthways into slices about as thick as your finger. You should easily get 4 proper slices from each aubergine. Wrap a baking sheet with foil and oil well. Arrange the aubergine slices on the sheet and brush well with olive olive. Turn over and brush the other side too. Place in the oven on an upper shelf. Bake for about half an hour until golden on both sides, turning over once.

Meanwhile, chop the walnuts using a food processor or herb chopper. Aim for finely chopped but don’t let them become a paste. Crush the garlic and put into a cold pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Put over a lowish heat and let the garlic release its aroma and start to sizzle, but don’t let it colour. Mix the chopped walnuts and parsley in a small bowl, then stir in the the garlic and oil. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to bring everything together and to give consistency you can spread.

When the aubergines are ready, generously brush the upper surface of each slice with wine vinegar and sprinkle with a little salt. Divide the walnut, garlic and parsley mix evenly between the slices and spread.

Let cool before serving. Enjoy!

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron are a delicious speciality from Galicia. These thumb-sized chillies are completely without the usual fire. To prepare just fry, with the stalks still attached, in hot olive oil until blistered, use kitchen towel to remove excess oil and sprinkle liberally with flakes of sea salt. They may not make the world’s most attractive dish but they are absolutely scrumptious. If you find these in your local greengrocer’s, I urge you to give them a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Caramelised Walnuts

I loved these tasty walnut snacks when I was based in China and used to bring home plenty. However, even large reserves eventually run out, so I had to come up with some way of getting my fix. I reckoned they couldn’t be that difficult to make, so I started to look around. I found this recipe in one of Ken Hom’s cookbooks and have been very satisfied with the results.

Summary

Makes: Portion for sharing
Preparation: 2 hours drying time
Cooking: 5 mins + deep frying

Ingredients

100g

1 tbsp

Walnut halves
Caster sugar
Sesame seeds

Method

Boil some water in a saucepan. Place the walnut halves into the water and boil for about 5 minutes to remove any trace of bitterness. If your walnuts are quite fresh, you can reduce this time: it’s really a matter of taste. Drain the walnuts and put into a shallow bowl. Immediately, sprinkle generously with sugar and toss the nuts about to ensure they are well covered. Lift the nuts gently from the bowl letting any excess sugar fall off and place on a non-stick baking sheet or similar to dry for at least 2 hours.

Place the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a low heat. Shake the pan occasionally. As soon as you can see the beginnings of smoke and a toasted smell, empty the seeds into a small bowl to stop the roasting.

When ready to cook the walnuts, heat enough oil to allow deep frying in a wok. You will need a skimmer or similar to lift the walnuts out of the hot oil. The traditional Chinese kind works best. The oil needs to be hot enough to allow the walnuts to sizzle but not so hot that they burn immediately. Test with a single walnut. When ready place the first batch of nuts into the oil. Push around a little to allow all sides to be cooked. They cook pretty fast: about 15 seconds, so pay attention! It is important only to cook as many walnuts as you can lift out in one go, otherwise the remaining nuts will burn. If using the Chinese skimmer, you can place it in the wok first, sort of like a basket and then lift out everything very easily. Remove the walnuts from the oil as soon as they are golden and place on a non-stick baking tray or a very lightly oiled plate. Try to arrange the walnuts in a single layer and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Continue until all the nuts have been fried.

Then see if you can resist the temptation to eat them all in one sitting!