Saturday, 24 April 2010

Vegetable Spaghetti

My week began with me in the kitchen baking. There were coffee cakes, savoury cakes, a tart, brownies, muffins and cornbread. A birth in the family and an independence day celebratory BBQ later, it is finally the weekend. Instead of sleeping in late, I dragged myself out of bed on Friday morning for to see what I could come up with at the farmers market. It is beyond crowded and I get annoyed from the pushing and shoving, but people are going crazy for high quality, local and seasonal produce like groupies in line for an 80’s revival (?) concert, so I cant stay mad for long. Getting by in the market is a precise task that calls for a surgical concentration; a quick ‘in and out’ act and I am back on my bicycle with a bag full of goodies and nobody gets hurt. Its almost as if it didnt happen only I have proof of purchase.

I always seem to find treasures at the farmers market. Once it was chalk dry tart mini apples, there were lace long mulberries and last week I walked home with a brown paper bag full of custard marrow.

After reading in Jane Grigson’s vegetable book about vegetable spaghetti I was both intrigued and mighty pleased to find it in the market yesterday. Like the custard marrow, the squagehtti is a type of squash. It has a thready flesh reminiscent of pasta, hence its name. I boiled it, drizzled cold pressed sunflower seed oil, crushed salt and white pepper corns and topped it with roasted pumpkin seeds. A perfect light lunch.

Tell you what though, a drizzle of good raw tahini and smoked paprika elevated it to an even higher ground.

Vegetable spaghetti with pumpkin seeds and white peppercorn

Vegetable spaghetti

Sea salt

Freshly ground white pepper corns

Cold pressed sunflower seed oil

A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds

Tahini (optional)

Smoked paprika (optional)

Push in a skewer in the Vegetable spaghetti to make a hole and boil in plenty of salted water. It should be ready in 30-45 minutes, but pierce it with a knife to make sure the centre is tender. Remove and drain, then cut in lengthways to reveal the strings of flesh inside.

Remove the seeds and save for later.

Drizzle with the oil, season with salt & pepper and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds.

You can also drizzle with tahini and smoked paprika.

About the seeds:

Being a lover of all things efficient, once boiled and sliced open I removed the seeds and roasted them (thanks to Kate’s Halloween snack of homemade roasted pumpkin seeds I recall having for breakfast…).

Toss them in olive oil and seasoning, roast in 150°C preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Aubergine jam

In the past few months I have entered a new phase. I discovered canning and home food preservation. Yes, its economic, and I get to enjoy seasonal produce at its peak for a little while longer, and yes, its efficient, as I like things to be. But that’s not it. With my tendency to keep things, gather and collect objects, recipes and memories… canning has become a valuable tool enabling me to carry on collecting memories through food like the unexpected batch of fragrant sweet tomatoes given to me in the middle of winter, or the bag of lemons that made their way from a distant relative’s lemon tree. Rather then enjoying them here and now, canning allows me to extend the flavour of the memory just a little bit longer. Now my fridge is filled with a surprising tangy banana chutney, canned tomatoes, a confit of fresh garlic and pickled lemons, each labelled with a memory of a time and a place.

This week I added to my collection a wonderful aubergine jam. That’s right. Last week I went to Mahne Yuda, a rather pricy picturesque market in Jerusalem. I headed beyond the main passages and behind the stalls to a particular stand that sells vegetables from the west bank. That’s code for truly local and seasonal produce, with vegetables that look like they used to when I was growing up, awkward, imperfect and bursting with flavour and aroma.

I took home a bag of aubergines the shape of miniature light bulbs, covered in a glistening dark skin. Determined to preserve this gift to myself (much much cheaper then shoes).

Commonly served during the mimuna on a freshly fried Mufletta the flavour of the aubergine comes through, infused with the spices and absorbed with the sugar. This is lush on toast, a warm buttery pastry, or as a topping for yogurt. I even served it on top of a homemade vanilla ice cream with crushed salted caramel peanuts. That worked rather well to put it mildly.

Aubergine jam

Based on a recipe by Erez Komarovsky


2 medium sized aubergines or 8 baby aubergines

2 cups water

1 ½ cup unrefined cane sugar

1 Tsp cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 Anise star

1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice

Remove the aubergine’s stalk, but leave the tip in tact, which acts as a handle for easy grip.

Using a fork prick the entire aubergine skin.

Place the aubergines in a medium sized saucepan, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Cook for 5 minutes, remove and drain the aubergines.

In a separate saucepan combine the sugar and spices. Add the aubergines and cook on a low heat until you reach the desired consistency, about 2-3 hours.

Put a saucer in the freezer and sterilize a jar: Wash a glass jar with the lid and soak in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Set out to dry upside down on a clean kitchen towel.

Take the saucer out of the freezer, and put a drop of jam on it. Tilt the saucer, and see if the jam is set. If not, let it boil for another minute, then test again until you've reached the desired consistency.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Pour the jam into the jar until full, wipe carefully if there was any spillage and close the lid tightly. Let cool to room temperature upside-down on the counter, then store in a cool and dark place for a few months.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010