You are what you eat & drink


Can aubergine taste good?

'American' egglant

‘American’ egglant

I used aubergine because it sounds facier than eggplant. I could have easily used beringela, that sounds posh too.

Note the title of the piccy, ‘American’ eggplant… Eggplants aren’t American, they come from India, and in my opinion, should have stayed there.

Aubergine is one of the few vegetables that I don’t like. I don’t know why, I just can’t get my head around them.

There are others, but the aubergine is so held to be healthy.

Why is it that ‘healthy’ foods tast like crap?

Which led to my post title.

Can anyone out there in 2D-land tell me how to make aubergine taste good in the 3D world?

Here’s some others on the dislike list…

Quiabo, or okra

Quiabo, or okra

Jiló, or scarlet eggplant

Jiló, or scarlet eggplant

Both of these are horrible. Although Brazilians swear by quiabo and chicken and quiabo with shrimps…

Cauliflower Steaks???

I am not one for vege/vegan foods, I was born a carnivore and shall remain one. But occasionally I see something interesting in my perambulations around the blogosphere that look interesting and fall in the realm of vege/vegan.

Cauliflower steaks are just that.

Pan grilled or roasted - image: Two Peas and their Pod

Pan grilled or roasted – image: Two Peas and their Pod

You can read about them on the image link. Simple instructions.

And if you google cauliflower steaks, there’s a heap of information out there.

Need a Leek?

leeks11st March, St David’s Day has been and gone. He is the patron saint of Wales and the leek and daffodil are both national symbols amongst other things like dragons.

The daffodil I can understand, but the leek… Who would want a pungent smelling vegetable as a national symbol?

So the story goes, St David ordered his soldiers to wear the leek in their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons; so it does have it’s place in history.

But, I’m not talking about wearing leeks. When I was younger, my father grew leeks in the garden, lots of leeks; so they featured on our table simply as a boring boiled vegetable. My mother was not an imaginative cook. Don’t get me wrong she cooked well, but plainly.

I hated leeks. I would turn up my nose, gag, threaten to throw up at the table if they appeared on my plate until the beastly things were removed.

I grew up, and now quite enjoy leeks, even raw in a salad.

But I suspect leeks have gone the way of many of the foods and vegetables of yesteryear. People don’t bother much with them any more.

Even as a chef, I found it difficult to imagine leeks in any other form other than boiled.

But, here are some ideas that make the leek interesting.

The 10 best leek recipes for Saint David’s Day

The most versatile member of the onion family, the humble leek can be both a sturdy base or the star of the show, with a robust flavour and great texture

Fresh and subtle: a leek, taleggio and thyme pie. Photography by Yuki Sugiura for the for the Guardian

Leek, taleggio and thyme pie

The creamy taleggio and leeks cook down together to form a delicious, gooey filling, and the parsley adds a fresh note.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 large baking potato, cut into slices
  • 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced into rounds
  • A knob of butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 20ml double cream
  • 180g taleggio or similar cheese, cut into chunks
  • 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry, rolled
  • 1 egg, for washing

1 Heat an oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside.

2 Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3 In a bowl, mix the potato flesh with the leeks, cream, taleggio and thyme leaves and season well. Cut the pastry in two and roll out each piece into a 3mm-thick circle. Place one circle on top of a 25cm nonstick pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off.

4 Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other pastry disk on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven. Cook the pie for 30‑40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.

More recipes

More recipes

Yes, check the Guardian link, there are many more interesting recipes.

You can pickle leeks as well:

Leek Pickles


  • 1 Lb whole fresh leeks (greens included), washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 C. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 C. water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds


1. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Briefly blanch the leeks in salted water. Drain and set aside.

2. Combine all ingredient except the leeks in the saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the leeks to the brine mixture in the pan. Let cool to room temperature and then transfer to a smaller nonreactive container, cover tightly. Place in the refrigerator overnight. You could also can the pickled leeks if desired.

Source: Live in Art

More pickling on: I’ve sprung a leek… a pickled leek

Man Flowers

Man flowers

Man flowers

Reblogged from Wine Wankers go there if you want to know more

In a Pickle

A global guide to pickles

Homemade preserves are a favourite among many cooks around the world. Here are some tasty recipes for kimchi, achar and torshi from Korea, India and Iran

Foodies have been getting into pickles recently, though in many countries preserves have long been a cook’s staple. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Pickles have a tendency to make our eyes water, and it’s not just their sharp taste. For me it’s the lemon pickle my grandfather used to make, which brings back memories of family picnics. For Atul Kochhar, chef at London restaurant Benares, it is stuffed chilli pickles that make him go misty eyed. “Our job, as kids, was to help my parents stuff the chillis and put them into sterilised jars,” he tells me.

Kochhar says preserves pull on our emotions because of their history of protecting the family’s diet through leaner seasons. For the same reason, they are still a mainstay of the home cook. “Homemade pickles taste different because they bring the essence of the person who has made it – who has added the spices they like best. I will always say home cooks are better than chefs at pickles.”

The importance of pickles declined when refrigerators became widely available, but there’s been a recent resurgence in interest among foodies. But, of course, in some countries pickles have always been central to cooking.


In Korea, kimchi – fermented vegetables – is the national dish and eaten with every meal. A poor-quality batch can be a social embarrassment, according to cookery teacher Kie-Jo Sarsfield. Family recipes are a closely guarded secret, she tells me. But with so many different ingredients it’s impossible to create a uniform taste each time, adding surprise and drama to the process. “It’s an excuse for conversation because you say: ‘Oh come round for lunch, our kimchi is good this time.’ But if your husband brought a guest round unexpectedly you would have to apologise if your kimchi is bad.” And what happens when you run out? She looks at me, shocked. “You would never run out of kimchi.”

One variety of kimchi is enough to create 10 different meals from soups to salad, she tells me. And although it can be made with different vegetables, most Korean families still make a batch of cabbage kimchi before temperatures drop too far. She is scathing about the modern taste for topping burgers with kimchi. Ham or steak work better, she advises.

Cabbage kimchi (baechoo kimchi)

Korean cabbage is better than the Chinese versions – cut two lengthways (cut the stem and tear the rest) put them in a solution of three cups of salt to 20 cups of water (too much salt and the kimchi will become mushy). Leave this for three hours turning occasionally, until the leaves look slightly wilted.

Homa Khaleeli jars her pickles

Rinse under cold water three or four times and drain in a colander until the stuffing is ready.

To make the stuffing peel and trim a Korean radish (if you can’t find this try an Indian mooli, which is similar but more watery and less crunchy), slice it into 0.3cm discs and cut it into 5cm strips.

Julienne some spring onions into 5cm strips.

Mix 100g Korean chilli powder, half a cup of salted anchovy sauce (or fish or oyster sauce ), 2tbsp of baby shrimp, one teaspoon of sugar, 3tbsp of crushed or finely chopped garlic, 1.5tbsp of finely chopped ginger in a bowl. Add the mooli and spring onions, and mix well.

Put the salted cabbage into a bowl and pull off a couple of outer leaves, then smear the stuffing in between the layers. Fold over the top of the leaves so you are folding the cabbage in half. Put it in an airtight jar and when the jar is three-quarters full cover with the outer leaves and press them down firmly. Put it in a cool place (such as a garage) for a few days before transferring it to the fridge.

If air gets into the jar, Sarsfield warns, you could end up with “crazy kimchi”, which she says “tastes horrible!”


“If you took pickles out of Indian society,” Kochhar says, “I don’t think it would survive.” The country has changed dramatically in recent years, with a growing economy and expanding middle class, but some things stay the same. “I would say 90% of people still live the old lifestyles. In old Delhi, for instance, people still have small houses with flat roofs where they dry their pickles.” Vinegar, he says, is seldom used. “We generally rely on sunlight, salt and spices,” says Kochhar. But that’s the only constant – mango and lime achars are the best-known Indian pickles, almost everything can be made into achar, including meat and seafood. “Meat pickles are very important in places like Rajasthan, which is dry and arid, and where they can’t grow many things,” says Kochhar.

“They have plenty of sun so whatever little produce they get they can pickle it and use it over the months ahead.”

Mustard oil, ginger and garlic, and achari masala or panch phoron – literally five spices (fenugreek, mustard, fennel, cumin and black caraway seeds) – are the basis for many north Indian pickles, along with mango powder and chillis. A south Indian lime achar, however, may just involve lime, crushed chilli and coriander – either salted or matured in the sun.

Like all pickles, achar (Indian pickle) has been developed not just to add extra bite and draw out the flavour of particular dishes, but to ensure ingredients only available in one season can be eaten all year round. For those of us not guaranteed weeks of sunshine to dry ingredients out, luckily there are recipes such as this turnip, cauliflower and carrot pickle for instant gratification.

Shalgam, gobhi, gajar ka achar (turnip, cauliflower and carrot pickle)

500g cauliflower
500g turnips
500g carrots
2tbsp mustard powder
½ cup vinegar
250g jaggery/gur/sugar
1 cup mustard oil
3 heaped tbsp ginger paste
3 heaped tbsp garlic paste
Salt and red chilli powder to taste

Wash and peel the vegetables. Cut the carrots and turnips into longish pieces, separate cauliflower into florets. Pat dry on paper towels and leave for few hours to get rid of excess moisture. Heat the mustard oil in a heavy kadhai (wok) till smoking, then let it cool a bit. Fry ginger and garlic until golden, add vinegar, jaggery and the rest of the spices. Add the vegetables and cook for 5mins, toss well, cool and bottle into clean and dry bottles. Your pickle is ready and will last in the fridge for several days.


In an elegant, light-filled house in Bath, Simi Rezai-Ghassemi has prepared a proper Iranian welcome. Spread out on her table, alongside my delicate cup of amber-coloured tea there are glass bowls filled with preserved mulberries, Iranian dates and some Bath fudge. Her mother, Salehe Salehpour-Oskoui, is visiting from her home in Iran’s Azerbaijan region, and it is from her that Simi says she has learned to make some of her favourite pickles. The cooking teacher waxes lyrical as she describes the food of the region, from apricots to tomatoes, which gave her her love of cooking. But Iranian pickles – or torshi – are not, she warns me, for the faint hearted. “They are really strong, they slap you around the face.”

“With pickles the emphasis is on sour,” explains Simi. “And we use herbs to flavour the vinegar and garlic. We eat pickles with most meals – for example it’s particularly popular to have cucumbers in brine with koresh (stew).”

In Azeri cooking, unripe grapes are often used to introduce a sour note to food. And at lunch Simi lets me try a bowl of Aash, Iranian soup, with ghooreh (sour grapes pickled in brine), which add a delicious sour pop to the dish.

And I am soon watching in awe as her mother ignores the cutting board to chop the vegetables in the palm of her hand, and later as they show me how to make pretty aubergine pickles, which are perfect for guests, as well as mixed vegetable torshi, and herb torshi – perfect for anything fried.

Torshi bademjan (aubergine, garlic and mint pickle)

Although Salehe doesn’t follow strict recipes or measure anything, Simi carefully weighs out the correct ingredients – but insists anyone trying to make pickles has to use their own judgment to create their own perfect preserve.

Take some small, tasty aubergines of a similar size that will fit into whichever jar you intend to use (about 120g). And add them to a saucepan containing a hot solution of 70ml vinegar and 70ml water. Put the lid on and simmer for 5-10mins until the aubergines are just soft but not cooked. Cider vinegar will give a less strong taste.

When they are ready, take them out and squeeze them gently to remove the water, slice down the middle and stuff them with a mixture of five chopped garlic cloves, 1tbsp dried mint and ¼tsp salt. Next carefully slide the aubergines into the jar you have picked – which will pack them in tightly. Cover them with 125ml fresh cider vinegar and 1tbsp of water (15ml) (boiled and cooled). Secure the jars and leave them in a cool dark place for a month or more. After opening, slice horizontally into discs and serve. Keep the torshi in the fridge once the jar has been opened. It will keep unopened for at least five months.


The Dreaded Aubergine

Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a species of nightshade commonly known in British English as aubergine... Wikipedia


There are few vegetables that I find distasteful, this great purple monstrosity is one of them.

They are related to tomatoes and potatoes (Solanum family), both of which I love. Technically, the aubergine is not a vegetable, but rather a berry.

Nutritionally, eggplant is low in fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also contains relatively low amounts of most important vitamins and minerals. A 1998 study at the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil, found eggplant juice to significantly reduce weight, plasma cholesterol levels, and aortic cholesterol content in hypercholesterolemic rabbits.Wikipedia

I know all this, but why does it have to be so obnoxious?

Then I found this, it almost seems appealing; appealing enough to try.

How to make the perfect baba ganoush

Is this delicious smoky dip the ultimate aubergine recipe – and which side of the great tahini divide are you on?

Felicity Cloake’s perfect baba ganoush. Photographs: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Everyone has their gastronomic tics – those dishes, or ingredients, or techniques, that suddenly make everything else on the menu look like ugly sisters. The word “smoky” generally does it for me, although I’m a sucker for a nice juicy aubergine as well, so if baba ganoush is available, you can keep your boring old hummus – my pitta is only going in one direction.

Like the ubiquitous hummus, this is a dish of indeterminate origins: Levantine is probably as specific as you can fairly get, because it pops up, under a variety of names, from Turkey to Egypt as a dip, a salad, or a vegetable side. It might be loose and smooth enough to scoop with bread, or so chunky you need a fork to tackle it – but never less, as Anissa Helou observes, than “exceptionally good”. And, with aubergine season drawing to a close, this is the time to tackle it.

Where there’s smoke …

Rebecca Seal's baba ganoush Rebecca Seal’s baba ganoush.

Smokiness is what defines this dish, setting it apart from your common or garden baked aubergine. Ideally, I’ve found, this is best achieved over a hot barbecue, but unless the weather’s picked up dramatically in the last few days, you’ll be relieved to know other options are available.

Helou, writing in Modern Mezze, suggests pricking and grilling them, an option also given by Claudia Roden and Rebecca Seal in her book Istanbul. The latter two also, however, give the option of charring them directly over a gas flame, as in Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe. I find this, though much fiddlier and messier, gives a far better result: the grilled aubergines seem shrunken and almost desiccated, while the others are fairly bursting from their burnt skins.

David Lebovitz hedges his bets, charring them over a flame and then baking them in the oven until soft, but I’m not sure I see the point, as long as you bear in mind the advice given to Seal by Gençay Üçok of Istanbul’s Meze by Lemon Tree restaurant: “If you think the aubergines are done, they’re not done.” They need to be not just charred, but collapsing in on themselves, and decidedly soft all the way through.

Draining and chopping

Yotam Ottolenghi's baba ganoush Yotam Ottolenghi’s baba ganoush.

Once you’ve made a complete mess of your hob charring the skins, they need to come off – Ucok seems to think that some people rinse the aubergines in water to get rid of them, which he strenuously warns against, but none of the recipes I find dare suggest such heresy.

Scooping the flesh out of the papery skins is easy enough: Seal says that some Turkish cooks also reject any flesh that is even slightly discoloured, but, like her, I enjoy the “intense smoky flavour” these bits supply, so I won’t be wasting any.

Even after all that cooking, aubergines are watery little things, and if you’re not to stray into blandly soggy territory, you need to squeeze as much liquid out of them as possible. This is generally done with patience and gravity, but Seal and Roden both suggest squeezing the flesh out in a sieve, rather than letting it drain for Ottolenghi’s “hour at least, preferably longer”, and I must say that, if done diligently, the results seem just as good.

Ottolenghi may be averse to squeezing because he leaves his aubergine in “long thin strips” rather than mashing it gently, as Seal, Helou and Roden recommend. This makes it more of a salad than the dip I’m after – a bit of texture is welcome (Lebovitz whizzes his up in a food processor to give a smooth puree that reminds me more of hummus than anything else), but I also like baba ganoush to have a bit of creaminess about it.


Claudia Roden's baba ganoush Claudia Roden’s baba ganoush.

Happily, as it’s another ingredient I carry a candle for, garlic is number two in the basic trinity of baba ganoush. Quantities vary, with Helou going for a modest single clove to six aubergines, while Roden uses a clove per aubergine. I like a hefty whack of the stuff, so I’m copying her, but if you’re shy, by all means add it to taste.

Lemon juice

The final element of every baba ganoush, mutabal or patlican ezmesi is lemon juice – and again, quantities vary. Helou is once more parsimonious, as is Ottolenghi, while Roden merrily squeezes in as many lemons as she uses aubergines. I’m not going to go quite so far: too much citrussy sourness spoils the smoky richness of the aubergine, but the dish should have a certain zing nevertheless.

Tahini and other additions

David Lebovitz's baba ganoush David Lebovitz’s baba ganoush.

The great rift in matters baba ganoush seems to be over adding tahini: Seal and Ottolenghi leave it out, and Lebovitz adds a very generous 130g ladleful, which may help to explain why his silky smooth baba ganoush tastes so much like hummus. The dish is pretty good without it, but I love the way the sweet nuttiness works with the creaminess of the slow-cooked aubergine, so I’ve added just a little – not enough to overpower the other ingredients, but certainly enough to make its very Levantine presence felt. Roden also, unusually, adds Greek yoghurt to her recipe. It is lovely, but I feel it robs the dish of its lemony, garlicky punch, so I’ll be leaving it out.

Herbs and spices

Anissa Helou's baba ganoush Anissa Helou’s baba ganoush.

Lebovitz adds chilli powder, “and sometimes a pinch of ground cumin” to his dip; both ingredients that work well with aubergine and tahini, but neither absolutely necessary for the proper enjoyment of the dish.

Ottolenghi adds 75ml olive oil to his, which makes sense as he’s not using tahini, but as I am, I prefer to do as Helou suggests and ring the dish with oil instead in the traditional fashion, so each dipped pitta gets a little of both. Helou and Ottolenghi also suggest garnishing the dish with pomegranate seeds, which look pretty if you have them, but are less vital than the chopped herbs that most people suggest as a topping.

Parsley and mint are the most usual choices; Ottolenghi uses both, and Helou suggests either/or, while everyone else plumps for one or the other, except Lebovitz, who goes for parsley or coriander. I’m not sure about the latter’s soapy flavour here: the peppery sharpness of parsley seems more fitting, but best of all, in my opinion, is sweet mint, which pairs very nicely with the aubergine.

Lebovitz and Seal stir some of the herbs into the dish itself, which I like – it guarantees a burst of freshness in every mouthful, and stops the greedy stealing the garnish. After all, this is a dish that’s all about sharing.

The perfect baba ganoush

Felicity Cloake's perfect baba ganoush

2 large aubergines (about 650g)
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a little extra
2 tbsp tahini
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped mint or flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Blacken the aubergines over a gas hob or barbecue, turning regularly with tongs, until completely charred and collapsed (you may wish to surround the rings with foil, as it can be messy). Allow to cool.

Slit the aubergines lengthways and scoop out the flesh in long strands, discarding the skins. Put in a sieve and leave to drain for 30 minutes, or squeeze out if you’re in a hurry. Season.

In a serving bowl, stir the lemon juice into the tahini until it loosens up. Add the garlic and two-thirds of the chopped herbs, and season again to taste. Add a squeeze more lemon juice if necessary.

Mash the aubergines gently with a fork, and then stir into the tahini mixture. Top with the remaining herbs and the pomegranate seeds, if using. Pour a moat of oil around the edge and serve.

Check for various links omitted here

Check for various links omitted here


Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds used in North African, Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Tahini is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva. Wikipedia



Turnips, what can you do with them?

Turnips (Brassica rapa)

Turnips (Brassica rapa)

A vegetable that many turn their noses up at; they’re not alone swedes (Swedish turnip) are often spurned as well.

“The turnip’s root is high in vitamin C. The green leaves of the turnip top (“turnip greens”) are a good source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. Turnip greens are high in lutein (8.5 mg / 100 g).”Wikipedia

So, by all accounts we should be eating them.

What can you do with a turnip?

Navets persillés - image: Pham Fatale

Navets persillés – image: Pham Fatale

Navets persillés are roasted  turnips in curly parsley butter. Roasting vegetables brings out great flavors and the addition of butter brings a nutty aroma.

Curly parsley and tarragon make the dish pop with a bright green color; add tarragon for a nice licorice flavor.

For the recipe visit: Pham Fatale

Turnip cake - image: Tea for Two Sisters

Turnip cake – image: Tea for Two Sisters

For the recipe visit: Tea for Two Sisters and check the link for Turnip Cake to find out more.

Buttered turnip puree - image: Food

Buttered turnip puree – image: FoodNetwork

For the recipe visit FoodNetwork Other recipes there too; like roast turnips & mushrooms, mashed turnips and shallots or sage, tugboat turnips…

Scalloped turnips - image: TasteofHome

Scalloped turnips – image: TasteofHome

For the recipe visit: Taste of Home other dishes include turnip slaw, turnip souffle & turnip casserole.

Turnip Chips with Crème Fraîche, Parsley & Red Onion - image: The Bitten Word

Turnip Chips with Crème Fraîche, Parsley & Red Onion – image: The Bitten Word

For the recipe visit The Bitten Word

Turnips, Greens And Beans - image: Wellsphere

Turnips, Greens And Beans – image: Wellsphere

For the recipe visit Wellsphere


Turnip Galette - image: Saveur

Turnip Galette – image: Saveur

For the recipe visit: Saveur

You can pickle them, make turnip fries, soups, smoothies, and don’t forget the turnip greens they go well stewed with a ham hock.

There’s a selection for you.