Aubergines. Radishes. Sweet potatoes. This is a disaster.
I subscribe to Harvest of Hope’s veggie box and every week I’m excited to see what arrives. Sometimes it’s easy to see what I’ll make for dinner with what’s in the bag, but tonight I confess I’m flummoxed.
Here are my problems: to start with, the teenagers who live in this house don’t exactly favour aubergines and there are two of them. Teenagers. And aubergines. With sweet potatoes being in season, there have been a few weeks of them and I’m pretty certain they are not going to be keen on having them baked in their jackets AGAIN. Radishes? Um no. Just no.
I put it all out on the table: potatoes, aubergines, different lettuces, eggs, those radishes. And then I rummage in the fridge for anything else I can add. I find some cream cheese and to my joy, half a jar of basil pesto. You have to understand this is a fantastic find in our fridge. Usually, a jar doesn’t last 5 minutes but by some miracle this one got overlooked.
So I spend a few minutes contemplating what I have. What comes to me is an idea of disguise. I’ve figured out that when it comes to food, there are two ways of doing this. One is to hide the food so well it becomes unrecognisable, the other is to make it look so appetising it becomes irresistible.
You want to know what I did?
But first a warning. I don’t do quantities. It drives my family mad when I try to teach them to cook a dish because my instructions are always along the lines of “chop up the spinach” then “steam it until just done” now “add it to the cheese sauce along with a sprinkle of nutmeg”. How much spinach? How do I know it’s done? And how much exactly is a sprinkle, they want to know.
Anyway, I digress. Please just use your own inner cook-intuitive know-how when it comes to quantities.
I chopped the sweet potatoes into thick slices, sprinkled them with marjoram and olive oil and mixed them up so that each piece was very lightly coated; covered the dish with foil, and popped it into a hot oven for 30-40 minutes. After that, I removed the foil, added a little honey and put the potato slices under the grill until they started turning golden-brown.
Meanwhile I took a good wedge of butter, mixed this with salt, the zest from one (well-washed if not organic) orange, a large clove of garlic and chopped chives and put this aside.
I made a pancake batter with two of the eggs, some milk, flour and a pinch of salt. I made the batter a little thicker than for pancakes – you’ll see why in a minute. I thinly sliced the aubergines, heated up a griddle pan, dipped the aubergine slices in the batter and lightly fried them in olive oil to make fritters.
Topped with dollops of cream cheese and then again with another dollop of pesto, well, did they look anything like aubergines? More to the point, did they taste anything like aubergines? With the crispness of the batter and the richly flavoured pesto, the aubergine barely registered. My children pretended to be fooled and ate with great gusto.
Once the sweet potatoes were done, I added the orange-zesty garlicky chive butter allowing it to melt sumptuously into the hot slices.
Served with a salad of lettuce, tomato, avo and paper-thin slices of radish for their gorgeous colour, it turned out to be a pretty good dinner after all.
One fit for royalty, we thought.