MOROCCAN GLUT WITH COUSCOUS

Dear Amelia,
Here is another eggplant recipe.
The buggers won’t stop growing.
It’s called Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous and it’s from Leanne Kitchen’s book, Grower’s Market: Cooking with Seasonal Produce.
Leanne Kitchen isn’t a celebrity chef but she should be because (a) look at her surname!!! and (b) look at her surname!!!

See all those bits of pink post-it notes sticking out the top?
They mark all the things I want to make.
So far I’ve only cooked one, even though I’ve had the book since 2006.
That’s not Leanne’s fault, it’s because my middle name is Procrastination.
Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous is really nice with lamb chops that have been grilled or barbecued.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll eat lamb chops until you’ve moved out of home because the thought of cooking baby sheep makes your mother hysterical.
When she was seven and realised what she was putting in her mouth, she became a vegetarian for almost a year.
It was a difficult period in our lives because she didn’t like vegetables.
You can imagine my relief when she was lured back to the dark side by a bacon sandwich and a Rainbow Brite doll.
Here is a picture of Rainbow Brite in case she’s extinct by the time you grow up.

Rainbow’s best friend was called Twink and she had a white horse called Starlite who had a rainbow mane.
It was round about this time your Mum decided she didn’t want to be called Kate any more; she wanted to be called Allora.
So we called her Allora.
“Allora! Dinner’s ready!”
“Allora! Time for bed!”
When you’re making Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous, it turns into bowl city but it’s well worth it because it tastes so good.
The original recipe contains cloves, which I hate because they always make me think of that scene in Marathon Man where Laurence Olivier is drilling into the roots of Dustin Hoffman’s teeth.
Feel free to add a pinch of powdered cloves if such things don’t bother you.

MOROCCAN EGGPLANT WITH COUSCOUS

Serves 4

1 cup instant couscous
1½ cups boiling water
olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 big eggplant or the equivalent in mini skinny ones
3 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
big knob of butter
small bunch parsley, chopped

Put the couscous into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let it stand for 10 minutes then fluff it up with a fork and put to one side.
Grab a frying pan that’s big enough to eventually hold all the couscous and veggies.
Put it over medium-low heat, add a little olive oil and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until it’s golden brown.
A couple of minutes before the end of cooking time, add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until the garlic is fragrant.
Scrape the onion and garlic into a bowl and put to one side.
While the onion’s cooking, cut the eggplant into 2cm chunks, leaving the skin on, and put into a big bowl.
In a small bowl (what did I tell you?), mix together the cumin, cinnamon, paprika and salt.
Shake this over the eggplant and mix everything thoroughly so the eggplant chunks are coated with the spice mixture.
Cover the bottom of the frying pan with olive oil – about half a centimetre deep – and cook the spiced eggplant over medium heat, turning it occasionally, for 25 minutes.
Scrape the eggplant into the bowl that’s holding the fried onion and garlic.
Melt the knob of butter in the frying pan over medium heat and tip in the couscous.
Cook it for a couple of minutes, stirring, then tip in the eggplant, onions and garlic and stir everything around for a few more minutes until hot.
Serve with chopped parsley scattered over the top.

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CURRIED GLUT

Dear Amelia,
Your stole your Mum’s mobile phone yesterday afternoon and rang my number quite by accident.
Then you said “hello”.
Actually, it was more like “hewoohhh” but it was good enough for me.
Your Mum told me it’s the first time you’ve said the word “hello”. EVER.
I suspect she says that to all the nannas but, whatever, I’m still sitting here thinking ‘be still my beating heart’.
I realise now that instead of talking to you for three minutes about what a beautiful, clever girl you are, I should have passed on some timely tips about vegetable gardening.
I’m not a hugely successful vegetable gardener but I’m pleased to say your Grandpa and I are actually self-sufficient at the moment if all we eat are tomatoes and eggplants.
Last summer we were self-sufficient in zucchinis.
I planted them because I had visions of stuffing the flowers with ricotta while I sang along to Dean Martin songs.
I never did and ended up instead with several thousand zucchinis the size of cruise missiles.
On the subject of gluts, this past spring we had roughly 7 million broad beans, which your Grandpa loves but I don’t because it takes forever to peel them and you end up being able to fart for Australia.
When we first came to Albany, before the garden was established, I used to buy all my veggies at the Saturday morning farmers’ market in town.
It’s expensive but the fruit and vegetables are fantastic and it’s THE place to go if you’re looking for lamb that’s had a university education.
These days I’m lucky enough to have a prolific vegetable grower living next door.
The picture at the top of this post is of the home-grown veggies our friend Richard passed over the fence last weekend.
It gets better: Richard’s wife, Lynda, is a farmer’s daughter and is kind enough to throw excess produce our way occasionally.
Lynda could really do with the help of Nigella, Rick and Elvis at the moment because the menopause is upon her and she spends a lot of her free time standing in front of the air conditioner in the crucifixion position.
But back to veggies: this year I planted mini Lebanese eggplants instead of the normal variety and they are quite bitter (maybe things are worse than usual in Beirut).
So I needed a recipe that was strong enough to mask any bitterness that was left after they’d been salted.
This is it and it’s really delicious. It’s adapted from a recipe by Dixie Elliott.

EGGPLANT AND POTATO CURRY

Serves 2 (or 4 as part of a curry meal)

1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp Madras curry paste (use Korma paste if you like a milder taste)
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1 large eggplant (or the equivalent in mini skinny ones), cut into 2cm cubes
5 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
1 cup frozen peas
bunch coriander, chopped roughly

Heat oil over medium heat in a non-stick wok or big frying pan.
Add onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until it’s soft.
Add the garlic and curry paste and cook for a minute or two, stirring, until it’s aromatic.
Add the potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and water, cover and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and check for seasoning – add salt if necessary.
Simmer for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Chuck in the frozen peas five minutes before it’s finished cooking and let them cook through.
Just before you serve it up, stir in the coriander.
Serve with rice.