You know that smell when you sautee crushed garlic in a pool of butter?


Right there.

That is what makes me happy.

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Marinated Aubergine Salad

Marinated Aubergine Salad

What a holiday it's been. As I sit inside eating nachos and watching Chocolat on a stormy Wellington day, I can hardly believe it's summer. This weather epitomises the crazy summer we've been having.

Matt and I headed up north for Christmas - spending Christmas Eve in Hamilton with my family, then heading up to his family's farm in a little place called Pokeno (world famous for their giant ice creams). We spent a few days there forgetting our city roots - feeding the calves and horses each day, possum hunting (successfully), rabbit hunting (unsuccessfully). Matt even butchered his own lamb, which his Mum and Ricky were kind enough to give us to take home. 

After a few days there, we headed up to my family bach in Mahurangi, which is in the Matakana/Warkworth area. It's a bare bones bach, open plan, with no bedrooms, and a tin roof. But somehow it's simplicity casts a spell on everyone who visits. There's something magical about that place, filled with 60s insignia, down to the rocket lamp in the corner (not to be confused with the far tackier lava lamp). 

As I mentioned, the weather didn't really turn up for us. The first three days were spent cooking to the music of rain on a tin roof, something I remember well from childhood trips. But the nostalgic charm wore off after a few days. Once the rain cleared we were left with overcast, still days which were stunningly beautiful, and the occasional hour or two of glorious, stinking hot sunshine (at which point we'd grab drinks and blankets and rush outside to enjoy it while it lasted).

Matt did a lot of diving - mostly unsucessfully due to the weather. But on our second to last day he jumped on a friend's boat and brought back an 11kg kingfish, which we ate as fresh as can be, in a carapaccio recipe from Al Brown's Go Fish. This saw the fresh fish sliced as thinly as possible, and served raw with olives, lemon zest, crumbled egg, and adorned with fried capers and lemon infused olive oil.

I served the carapaccio with marinated aubergine, a recipe which was adapted from a book my Dad gave me for Christmas - An Italian Summer, which is by the authors of the Silver Spoon. The book has been very well used in the few weeks I've owned it, in particular the many Italian variations on aubergine salads. When we went to the supermarket at the start of the holiday, I bought 6 (yes, 6!) aubergines.

This salad called for frying aubergine rounds lightly, then dressing them in a combination of olive oil, chilli, capers, garlic, and a tonne of mint. They are then left to marinate for at least 6 hours, but could easily be left overnight. Served at room temperature, the result is a beautifully aromatic, flavoursome, and silky soft side dish, which would be perfect served next to lamb, fish, chicken, or grilled halloumi, or equally delicious stuffed into pita pockets or on crusty bread with feta as a summery lunch.

Marinated Aubergine Salad

 (Serves 4 as a side)

  • 1 medium sized aubergine
  • 1 big clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 chilli, deseeded
  • 2t capers, minced
  • 1 large handful mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2c olive oil, plus more if needed

Salt and pepper

Start by slicing the aubergine into rounds no thicker than 5mm. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 mins on a clean tea towel to drain.

In the meantime, combine the crushed garlic, chilli, capers and mint in a mortar and pestle and smash it all together with a little of the olive oil. Add the rest of the olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and mix together. Set aside.

When the 30 mins is up, heat a pan on a medium heat, but do not oil the pan itself. Take as many of the aubergine rounds as you can fit in  a single layer in the pan and brush with a little of the olive oil mix - not too much or they'll go soggy, just enough to get them to brown up.

When the pan is hot, place the rounds with the oiled side facing down, and fry until golden. Brush the topside with a little more oil, then flip and fry the other side. When both sides are golden, lift them onto a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining rounds, frying in batches.

Once all the aubergine is fried and arranged on the plate, drizzle over the remaining olive oil mixture, making sure you spoon the mint, chilli, garlic and capers all over. If you need more olive oil to ensure each piece is dressed, drizzle over now. 

Pop the platter in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving.

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