Roasted Aubergine and Red Pepper Dip

It’s one of life’s little pleasures to hear people making ‘nomnom’ noises as they’re devouring food that you’ve cooked – wouldn’t you agree?

This dip makes people do that and it’s easier than pie to make (much easier…why do they even say ‘easy as pie’?)

Roast aubergine & red pepper dipIngredients

For Roasting
1 aubergine (egg plant), cut into chunks
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced (not too small!)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole
1 teaspoon chilli powder
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
A slosh of olive oil

For the Food Processor (or Mortar & Pestle)
1 tablespoon tomato purée (the stuff you get in the squeezy toothpaste type tube)
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves
A good glug of olive oil (which is more than a slosh, in case you’re wondering)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

Using your hands, mix together all the ‘for roasting’ ingredients.mix ingredients together

It’s a good idea to do this in the tin that you’ll be roasting in – that way you don’t spend ages trying to scrape the spices off the side of a bowl.
And it’s one less thing to wash up.  See how I look after you?  You’re welcome. 😉
Spread everything in an even layer and slam onto the middle shelf of your preheated oven.

roast until just starting to blacken

Roast for around 35-40 minutes, or until things are just starting to blacken at the edges. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes or so.

tip into food processor

Tip roasted vegetables into a food processor together with the tomato purée, coriander leaves, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a healthy amount of black pepper.

Blitz, taste, adjust seasoning, blitz again if necessary; bear in mind this is nicer when it’s still got some texture to it rather than being completely smooth.

aubergine & red pepper dip

Tip into a serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Nduja in the Style of a Moussaka, with Baby Fennel & Tomato Salad

Our standard use for nduja has been in a tomato based sauce, served with pasta – a bit like an über spicy Bolognese.  This is very tasty, and all well and good, but the nduja needed new ways to express itself.

AubergineThis plump, purple aubergine got me thinking about moussaka…which got me musing about the probable wondrousness of a creamy sauce against fiery nduja…which, eventually, lead to the creation of this dish.

It’s actually nothing like a moussaka, apart from the aubergine, but it was inspired by… 😉

Finished dish with saladThe salad of fresh tomatoes, crisp, slightly aniseed fennel, and zesty lemon dressing cuts perfectly against the richness of the cheese sauce and oily nduja to make a beautifully an ugly, but flavour balanced meal.

Note:  I accidentally got beef mince, instead of pork, out of the freezer so that’s what’s in the pictures.  However, pork mince would work much better with the spicy pork nduja paste, so that’s what I’ve listed in the ingredients.

Ingredients
1 aubergine, sliced
1 courgette, cut into small chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into small chunks
A glug of olive oil
2-3 hands full of soffritto
1 teaspoon chopped smoked garlic
400g tinned tomatoes
100g nduja
400g minced pork
250g ricotta cheese
150g Manchego cheese, grated
150ml single cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Baby fennelFor the Salad
4-5 baby fennel bulbs, sliced into rings
2-3 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, sliced
½ lemon – juice only
Olive oil
2-3 sprigs of fresh basil, leaves stripped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190°C/375ºF

Baby fennel in olive oil & lemon juice dressingPlace fennel rings into a small non-metallic bowl.

Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until to preferred taste and pour over fennel. Set to one side.

Sliced aubergineLay the aubergine slices onto a triple layer of kitchen roll, sprinkle liberally with salt, top with another triple layer of kitchen roll.and leave for 20-30 minutes, until plenty of water has been released.

Alternatively, layer in a large, non-metallic sieve set over a bowl.

Soffritto

Smoked garlic

Heat oil in a heavy based, lidded pan.  Add soffritto and garlic then cook over a low to medium heat, with lid on, until vegetables are soft but not brown.

CourgetteChuck in chopped courgette (yup, still working our way through them!) and red pepper – cook, with lid off, for 5-6 minutes.

Nduja

Add minced pork and nduja and cook over a medium heat, stirring and turning until the nduja has ‘melted’…

Fiery red nduja oil…and all those gorgeous, hot, peppery, orange coloured oils have been released.

Pour in tinned tomatoes and simmer with lid off until sauce has thickened, with almost no liquid remaining.  Remove from heat.

Cheese sauce ingredientsNext, make a cheese sauce by gently heating the single cream, ricotta and about ¾ of the Manchego (keep some back for sprinkling on top) until everything’s melted together.

Cheese sauceAdd a splash of milk if it gets too thick.  Season to taste.  Resist grabbing a piece of bread to dunk in.

Layered and ready to bakeRescue the aubergines from their soggy tissue shroud – pat dry.  You can fry them to brown them off if you want to, but it’s not really necessary.

In an oven proof dish build alternating layers of aubergine slices, meat mixture and cheese sauce, starting with aubergine and ending with cheese sauce.

Topped with cheeseSprinkle reserved cheese over the top and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Tomato and fennel saladTo finish salad – place sliced tomatoes onto a plate, shred basil leaves over the top and season well with salt and pepper.  Spoon fennel rings and a little of the dressing over the top.

Finished dish with saladI really should have taken a good shot of the baked whole dish as nothing was going to make a served portion look terribly pretty!

If you make it, I’m sure you’ll agree that the taste explosion is ample compensation for the explosion-like appearance.  I hope so anyway! 🙂
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