From Italian-baked aubergines to redcurrant clafoutis, Dulcima Mansell celebrates the flavours of June.
I was home alone the other night, and decided to treat myself to a tasty dinner. Did I order a decadent takeaway? Shun the savoury dinner altogether and gorge myself on cake? I did not. I ate some aubergine, well lots of aubergine
I cooked the (not too thick) slices with lots of garlic and layered them with some thick basil-packed tomato sauce and topped the whole thing with some gutsy cheese. Cooked until bubbling and served with some fresh bread, (and a big glass of red, so yes a little bit decadent) I was a very happy woman. I suppose it was a cross between Parmigiana di melanzane and ratatouille. It somehow felt rather debauched to enjoy a dinner so much; I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually rather healthy.
However, my love for the aubergine is far from unconditional, for me they have to be cooked just so. Too thick and I object to the rubbery skin; give them too much oil and they turn greasy. There are a great many dips I would rather dunk some pitta into than baba ganoush. Aubergines often feature in Thai cooking, commonly partnered with chicken in a yellow or green curry; not for me I'm afraid, I accept the flavours work together but I don't enjoy the combination of textures at all. (Pea aubergines on the other hand are a marvellous thing indeed, and I sprinkle them through my curries to joyful
From the bright purple to the bright red: redcurrants are also coming into season. Hanging in beautiful clusters, they are nature's rubies and quite the culinary gem. The poor little blighters are so often just made into a jelly that sits so eagerly in the fridge awaiting its next use when you desire a dollop in your gravy or a glaze for a tart. If they are lucky they find themselves mingling with some other fruits of the season in a summer pudding. I will be making some jelly in the coming weeks, and probably a summer pudding too, but there is potential for so much more.
The best way to enjoy the merits of redcurrant is to juxtapose them with something rich and heavy. Try them with rich cheeses or, as favoured by Nigel Slater, in a crème brûlée. They also partner well with sweeter fruits (as in the summer pudding) and peaches work particularly well. I will be eating a lot of clafoutis over the next month. Traditionally made with cherries, this fruity batter-based dessert is so easy to make and is a wonderful showcase of the tasty fruits.
How will you be eating redcurrants and aubergines over the coming weeks?