Summer’s salad and sorbet days: such were my hopes and dreams for the beginning of June, but sadly my fantasies have been thwarted by an almighty thunderstorm and an unseasonal drop in temperature. My intentions were to make a mango and lime sorbet (of which more is to come later) but I just cannot bring myself to tuck in to a bowl of iced pudding on such a cantankerous day and so, after a long, wet and windswept dog walk on the beach, I find myself drawn to making a Moroccan spiced aubergine stew the likes of which I can pull together, fragrant and warm, for a supper suited to a day such as this.
I am always fascinated by the link between food and mood. We take it for granted that sweet equals satiation and carbs equal comfort and for a lot of people (myself included) the step between a bad day and a good meal is a very short one. It stands to reason that the food we eat should respond to the feelings we have – after all, food is a sensory experience: a way of showing love, sharing fun, giving and receiving pleasure and a source of creation – the trouble starts when the food we eat dictates our mood and in turn, our mood then prescribes our appetites, big or small. For someone suffering from a food allergy or intolerance the gamut of emotions that eating and cooking can cover is amplified tenfold. The experience of needing to eat and then feeling deeply unwell from eating can damage any individuals feelings about food; if you then add the physical and psychological aftermath of being unwell – lethargy, stomach pains, sickness, diarrhoea, aching limbs, headaches and a feeling of discomfort both physical and emotional – you can begin to see the overreaching effects of food intolerance and allergy, and the importance of finding a healthy, gentle and delicious alternative to the food/mood/health balance you have been living.
This recipe is inspired by a Claudia Roden Middle Eastern cookbook ; there is no such exact recipe in it but I am so totally inspired by her use of spices and flavour that her food writing is always a source of reference for me. I like to serve this dish with a bowl of herb quinoa (I use parsley, mint, chives and coriander) and perhaps a little hoummous for indulgence sake.
SPICED AUBERGINE, TOMATO & CHICKPEA STEW
2 medium sized aubergines
1 large white onion
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin seeds, ground to a powder
¼ coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of cooked chick peas
Peel and dice the onion and finely slice the garlic clove into rounds. Chop the aubergine in to 1½ inch chunks. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan or casserole pan, add the onions and garlic and allow them to soften for a few minutes. Add the aubergine to the onions and fry gently over a medium to low heat until the onions are completely soft and beginning to caramelise, about 10 minutes.
Using a pestle and mortar, grind the cumin and coriander seeds to a fine powder. Add the cumin, cinnamon, coriander and honey to the aubergine and stir through until the vegetables are evenly coated in spice and you have a strong waft of fragrant spice. Season well and then add the tomatoes and chickpeas to the pan. Cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes.