Sunday, 23 November 2008

That's what friends are for!

I've never lived alone for long, and I hate being by myself for extended periods, so I usually don't much look forward to the times Jenny is away from home. This weekend would have been the same, except I managed to persuade Jane to come to dinner last night. I do like cooking for myself (you may have noticed!) but it's much preferable to show off to someone else! I'd promised her squirrel, but in the event the man at the farm shop couldn't come up with the goods, which was a bit of a shame.

Anyhow, I'd planned all along to do a Madhur Jaffrey lamb rogan josh just in case the squirrel turned out to be nasty, so just did that instead. I cooked it on Friday evening, since, like many similar dishes, it benefits from being left to stand and then recooked.

For starters, I did a carrot and beetroot salad that I made up myself. After peeling and topping and tailing a carrot, I used the potato peeler to cut it into thin sheets, then a regular kitchen knife to cut the sheets into long matchsticks. Then I did the same with a small amount of beetroot, ending up with perhaps a quarter as much beetroot as carrot. My beetroot was cooked, because that was what I happened to have in the fridge, but raw would have done just as well. After piling that onto a couple of side plates, I scattered about half a teaspoon of finely diced fresh root ginger over each, drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over and served.

I was pleased with the result, and was interested to note that not only was it rather time-consuming to make, but it took much longer to eat than you'd imagine. Not sure why. You'd have thought one carrot and half a beetroot between two would last about 30 seconds, but we were there for a good while.

Having finished that, we went back into the kitchen while I cooked the rice, spicy fried aubergine and Gujurati green beans to go with the lamb. I can't find the aubergine recipe online, but here's what I do: slice the aubergine in half lengthways, then each half into 3, also lengthways. Then cut it across into half-centimetre slices. Dump the lot into one of 2 glass bowls and glug some olive oil over. Invert the other glass bowl on top of the first, and holding tightly, shake it vigorously to distribute the oil over the aubergine. This uses much less oil than just chucking them in a pan to fry.

Take the second bowl off and throw in a mixture of half a teaspoon ground turmeric, and eighth to a quarter teaspoon of cayenne and a good grinding of black pepper. Cover with the second bowl and shake vigorously once more. The pieces of aubergine should now be evenly coated with the spices.

Using a heavy-based wide pan on a moderate heat with another glug of olive oil, fry the aubergine in batches . They're a pain to turn, but you do need to do so. Once they're starting to go golden, you should notice some of the oil seeping out. I usually judge that to mean they're cooked.

Jane was laughing at me as I cooked, because I always get in a bit of a panic, unsure of precise timings and what to do next. In the end it all worked out OK, but I did wonder once or twice.

Pudding was mango and passionfruit brulée. Nope, can't find that one online either. Dice the flesh of a peeled mango and put it in the bottom of a heat-proof glass dish. Or you could use individual ramekins. Whip 150 ml of suitable cream (double or whipping) until it's softly stiff, then fold in 200 ml Greek yoghurt and the juice and pips of 4 passionfruit. Pour that lot on top of the mango, then spread a thin layer of soft brown sugar on top, covering all the cream. Chill in the fridge for an hour. Get the grill really hot, then put the brulée under until the sugar bubbles up and starts to caramelise. I never get that bit right and I have yet to serve this dish with nice crisp caramel on top. I've tried it under the grill, I've tried a blow torch, nothing ever works for me. Jenny can manage it easy-peasy, but not me. Cool, then refrigerate until time to serve.

And it did seem to go down OK. Along with an astonishing amount of wine. I counted the bottles this morning and was amazed to be feeling fine.

After loading the dishwasher, we retired to the living room, resurrected the log fire and watched Horton Hears a Who on the big screen. I've seen it 3 times now, and I still think it's great!

So a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Thank you, Jane, I had a lovely time. Oh, and you can relax; the wine didn't stain the rug!


Jane.Dudman said...

Glad to hear the wine didn't stain. Thanks for a really fun evening - loved the food, though I'm still hoping for that squirrel curry sometime...

Rob Clack said...

It was a real pleasure, Jane. Hope you're coming around for a drink tonight, too. R