Philippa Gratton Spring Is Here

By mid May, we often find ourselves heading off down to the Languedoc. Theallure of warm sunny days and a swimming pool are difficult to resist, as well as the necessity to prepare the garden for the Gardeners in the Hérault Open Day!

I prepare this aubergine dish quite often, sometimes as a side to accompany my favourite pomegranate

molasses marinated lamb chops or, in the photo, as the star of the meal with flatbreads and hummus. The recipe was stolen from Yotam Ottolenghi who has a fabulous way with all vegetables and his way of preparing the aubergine slices was a revelation, transforming dishes like aubergine parmigiana and

moussaka. No more greasy aubergine slices soaking up loads of oil!

The aubergines are sliced into 2 cm rounds then placed in a large bowl with a good splash of olive oil,

seasoning and I like lots of dried oregano. Mix everything up to coat the slices then spread out on a parchment lined baking tray, which cuts down on the cleaning up, and roast at 220°C until golden brown and tender. These can be kept in the fridge until needed and brought up to room temperature. Now the fun bit, dressing the plate! Have your topping ready.

Some crispy fried onion flavoured with curry powder or, if I’m in a hurry, those crispy onions from a bag add texture as do pine nuts toasted till golden. Make a dressing with a tub of Greek yoghurt, lemon juice and turmeric.

Arrange the aubergine on a serving plate, dribble with the yoghurt dressing, sprinkle over the onion, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds if you have them an some fresh herbs. I like this with fresh mint but basil and coriander work well too.

This is also the time when apricots start appearing on the fruit counter. I actually prefer them cooked as they seem to have a more juicy flavour so I take the opportunity of putting my baker’s hat on and prepare this apricot, frangipane tart which is a great favourite. You can make the shortcrust pastry, which I should do, but I confess I often take advantage of a good bought pâte brisée to cut down on the preparation.

The frangipane mix is easy. 175 g each of ground almonds, soft butter and sugar go into the mixer along with 1 tablespoon of plain flour, 3 eggs and some almond extract. This is sufficient for a 28 cm round tin. I like to spread some apricot preserve over the base of the tart, cover with frangipane then place the apricot halves attractively on top. Bake in the oven on a previously heated baking sheet at 180°C for about 40 minutes, stopping after 20 to sprinkle with slivered almonds. Do not leave it to cut the grass or do the ironing, you need to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get too brown. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with whatever you like.

Régalez-vous !

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