Builders, and my shoulder being out of action, turned the patio garden into a sad, neglected, forlorn bunch of pots. Water pond cleaned out. Jasmine balls pruned into shape. Old plants replaced with new herbs. Transformed.
Acrylic on canvas 20cmx20cm
In the studio, a canvas for the larger painting of irises and foxgloves. A peach colour underpainting of Indian Yellow and Quinacrine Rose, with touches of Permanent Carmine, in bold sweeps. The blue of the Iris flowers seemingly beyond grasp. In my box of magic paints, Indigo Blue. (Van Dyk Ferrario No. 57) and Mineral Violet Deep (No 47) that touch of inspiration. For the foxgloves, I used a mixture of Alizarin Crimson (Winsor&Newton Artists) and Violet Rose Madder (Ferrario No 48)
Some dishes are surprisingly tasty. Certainly, the Yotam Ottolenghi Eggplant, Lamb and Yogurt Casserole is one such meal. ‘ … noisy yet peaceful, lip-smacking yet warm, simple yet daring.’ The flavours, definitely moreish. Particularly on a chilly evening, with the wind still howling. The heavily wooded Chardonnay from Constantia Uitsig a much better food companion than the young red I had.
With the sunrise, first 10km run after the collar-bone surgery. Nothing too crazy.
Yotam Ottolenghi Eggplant, Lamb and Yogurt Casserole
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 2 hours
For the eggplant and lamb mixture:
2 or 3 eggplants (aubergines) (about 1 1/2 pounds/680 grams), cut into 1-inch/3-centimeter cubes
1 pound/450 grams ground lamb (lamb mince)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup/15 grams fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup/80 milliliters olive oil
1/4 cup/65 grams tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 (14-ounce/400-gram) can whole, peeled plum tomatoes with their juices
3 cups/700 milliliters chicken stock
1/3 cup/20 grams roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the topping:
2 cups/450 grams plain Greek yogurt
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lightly packed cups/70 grams finely grated Parmesan
1 cup/100 grams roughly crumbled feta
Scant 1/3 cup/40 grams pine nuts
2 packed tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit/240 degrees Celsius.
2. Add the eggplant, lamb, onion, oregano, oil, tomato paste, garlic, cinnamon, allspice, red-pepper flakes, 1 3/4 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper to a 10-by-13-inch/26-by-34-centimeter (or similar) roasting pan (tin) and mix well to combine. Bake until the mixture is well browned, stirring twice throughout and breaking apart the meat with a spoon, 30 to 35 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and continue to break apart the meat very well (don’t worry if you break apart some of the eggplant, too). Add the canned tomatoes with their juices, lightly crushing the tomatoes by hand. Stir in the chicken stock and parsley then return to the oven and bake for another 35 minutes, stirring twice throughout, until the sauce is thick and rich and the eggplant is very soft. Remove from the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit/250 degrees Celsius.
4. While the casserole is in the oven, prepare the topping: Whisk together the yogurt, yolks, flour, garlic and half the Parmesan with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Once ready, spoon the yogurt mixture over the lamb and eggplant, gently spreading to cover. Top evenly with the remaining Parmesan, feta, pine nuts, parsley and red-pepper flakes.
5. Bake until golden and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
And to Drink …
This variation on moussaka calls for a lively red wine that won’t be drowned out by the dish’s assertive flavors. Why not a Greek red, like a xinomavro, if it’s not made in too oaky and tannic a style? Limniona is a rare red grape that’s been resurrected; from a producer like Zafeirakis, it would be ideal. You could try a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the Adriatic coast of Italy, or a frappato or Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Sicily. If you happen to have an older Château Musar around, from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, this may be an ideal time to serve it. Or, if you want to be bold, why not try one of the new wave of retsinas, Greece’s traditional white infused with pine resin?