I would be first to admit that whipping up a vegetarian dish is far from my normal for a Sunday lunch.
Then again, lunch on Christmas Day 2017 ended up to be meat-free – our Organic and Halal beef supplier provided a joint which had aged far longer than anything I had encountered in my life- it smelled so prominent that we all concluded that our desire to exceed our very own best before date outweighed the risk of eating something which appeared rancid. Seriously stinky.
Little saddens me more that the feeling of having ruined Christmas lunch – something I have achieved, without fail, since I was thirteen. It started off as a gesture to my beloved mother – I really felt she deserved a break from the kitchen at Christmas and should put her feet up, and the tradition kind of stuck for the last 29 years. How I am now showing my age! As the reeking beef joint was wrapped up and unceremonially discarded (not helped by being unseasonably warm that day- even in Yorkshire) – I could not have asked for more considerate guests who took all of this in their stride (even though I was mortified to have lost what I considered to have been la piece de resistance). To Marlini and my family – thanks again for being so understanding and putting up with the super grumpy version of me that day. Even grumpier than normal!
By chance, I had made a sous-vide griddled aubergine and pesto dish as a starter which, coupled with the rest of my Christmas lunch seemed to fill us all quite contently. What it did do, on that day, was reignite my love for the humble aubergine (or eggplant, to my North American friends). In the past, I have had quite a dismal experience of eating aubergine – either undercooked/ chewy, or the polar end of the spectrum – so drenched in oil and greasy (typically in a Moussaka recipe) that it felt like a heart attack in the making. The absorbent qualities of the aubergine are so significant, I am surprised that they are not used to mop up the next oil spill. Exxon/BP – I could have the answer to your problem!
Anyhow, I digress. What I did discover was that when cooked in different way, the flavour can be so pleasant, and the texture succulent and juicy (yet still firm). I got to enjoy aubergine so much that it became a regular addition to my shopping list. Roll on the best part of 2018 (and how on earth did it disappear so quickly?), and it takes me back to Sunday. Unlike Christmas day, I had actually planned to go meat-free and try out my third iteration of a griddled Mediterranean vegetable and pesto pasta dish, and I really think this version was the best yet. Each and every tweak made a subtle yet meaningful difference to this recipe. As I already had an aubergine, courgette, and baby portobello mushrooms at hand, the only extra ingredients to source were those needed to make a homemade pesto. As I always have a stock of pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese, I just had to remember to add a large bunch of fresh basil leaves to my Ocado order.