A simple and delicious European style aubergine stew
You're more likely to find recipes for aubergine stews of Moroccan or Indian inspiration. That's great, really, but I wanted a simple, European style recipe that matches the rest of the food on my table, so I came up with one (there is, of course, the Italian caponata, but due to it sweet and sour sauce - using vinegar, capers and olives - I'm not always in the mood for it).
When I want to have an oriental styled one I always go for a bharta - but I still have to get Getuta to eat it, as she mostly finds the ones from our favourite Indian restaurants a bit too heavy - I'm guessing because of frying the aubergines in a lot of ghee. If you tend to find aubergine dishes a bit heavy for you, try blanching the aubergines for a minute (just until soft) instead of frying them, as it makes for a much lighter dish.
- 3 good looking aubergines
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 1 celery stick
- olive oil or fat from duck (canard) or goose (oie)
- 1 glass of Noilly Prat or white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate
- a handful of thyme sprigs
- a sprig of rosemary
- two bay leaves
- (dried) oregano
- 500ml beef stock
- 75g heavy cream (30%)
- 2 garlic cloves
- handful of basil leaves
The entire dish is cooked in an iron-cast pot (also called dutch oven or cocotte); lacking one, use a large sauté pan and adjust the quantities.
Mise en place
Finely cube the aubergines (1/2 cm), salt them generously and leave to rest until they sweat profusely - 10 minutes or so, and then shake off the moisture and drain them (I use a large plastic colander).
While the aubergines rest, finely chop the carrot, onion and celery.
Slowly sauté the carrot, onion and celery until they've softened up and the onion is translucent.
Turn up the heat and deglaze with the vermouth or wine.
Add the tomato paste and swirl around, turn the heat down and cook stirring it from time to time. The tomato paste will slowly turn darker while greatly enhancing its flavour.
Add the aubergines and toss to coat in the sauce, pour the stock over (the stock should completely cover the aubergines). Add the herbs and season generously with salt, pepper and a touch of chili flakes. Bring to boil, then turn the heat down and simmer gently for half an hour or until the aubergines are tender and the sauce is suitably reduced and the dish tastes done.
And this is where you turn it around! It's time to give it the final kick that makes this a really stand-out dish - turn off the heat, add the cream, chopped basil leaves and minced garlic, then stir carefully until well blended, adjust seasoning and serve immediately.