Thursday, 26 May 2016

Couscous with Aubergines and Summer Savory


"
Hot Lauender, Mints, Sauory, Mariorum,
The Mary-gold, that goes to bed with' Sun,
And with him rises, weeping:
"
[A more modern rendition:

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun,
and with him rise weeping.]


William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, Act 4, Scene 4.
I get pesticide free vegetables home delivered once a week. While the farm doesn't produce all things I need in the kitchen, they do have a commendable array of herbs and greens that I like trying out once in a while.

I normally make some plans ahead as most of their herbs are on the pricier side and at least a part of them would go to waste if I am not careful enough - I should probably request them to consider selling a mixed bag of herbs. The Summer Savory however was bought mostly on a whim (and partly because I like saying ‘Summer Savory’ - slightly weird, I know.) Some of it did wilt and wither owing to my procrastination, but I was able to use most of the bunch. This Aubergine specked couscous was one of the first dishes that it went to, others being meatballs and a couple of dipping sauces.
Talking about this dish, I have to admit one thing. There was a time when I used to loathe Aubergines. How anyone could like Aubergines was beyond my imagination, though I did have a faint memory of the slender ones that used to come from my Mother's kitchen garden not being that repulsive. But as it turns out, I just was getting the wrong type. I normally buy the Japanese Nasu Violets these days from my produce people though I have used the larger Bottle Egg Plants from them here (which were also very good and not bitter at all, just like the Nasu Violets).

Confession time: This type of dishes rarely gets any applause here. So they make their way to the dinner table either when I have other leftovers for The Techie or when I am in a benevolent enough disposition to prepare dinner two ways. On the plus side, meals like this take about fifteen minutes from start to finish and half of that is waiting time. So there is that.

Couscous with Aubergine and Summer Savory 

As I mentioned above, I first made the dish mainly to utilize my stock of Summer Savory. I have since then made it without any herbs and even using pasta sauce when I ran out of tomato paste. (See Notes.)

Ingredients:

For the Aubergines:
  1. Aubergines, sliced into arcs - About 1 to 1 and a 1/2 cups. (Or leave them in rounds and cut them after frying them.)
  2. Salt
  3. Olive/A neutral tasting Oil
For the Couscous:
  1. Garlic, minced - 1 large clove
  2. Red Onion, sliced - 1/2 cup
  3. Tomato Paste - 1 generous tbsp. (I use mine, which is very thick. Use twice or thrice the amount if what you have is of a thinner consistency. Also see Notes.)
  4. Red Chilli Flakes - 1/2 tsp. (Optional)
  5. Couscous - 1 cup
  6. Vegetable Stock/Water - 1 cup
  7. Summer Savory, chopped - 2 tbsp., divided (More or less to taste. See Notes.)
Directions:

For the Aubergines:

You can use the same pot/pan for cooking the entire dish if it is a suitable one to saute as well as boil liquids. (However, if you want to get the meal done quicker, use separate pans for the aubergines and couscous and do them side by side.)

Lightly sprinkle the aubergines with some salt and toss well.

Heat up a pan and add some oil. Place the slices of aubergines on the hot pan and flip when one side gets done. (Remember that Aubergines are great oil drinkers. They will absorb as much oil as you put in and you need to add only enough oil to keep the slices from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Your basic intention here should be to just cook the aubergines and not to get a uniform tan on them.) Once done, keep them aside.

For the Couscous:

Either continue with the same pan or heat up a new one. Add some oil and toss the minced garlic into it. Let it sizzle. Once it smells good, add the sliced onions and saute till they turn translucent. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.

Now add the liquid and bring to a boil. Switch off the heat, add the couscous, chilli flakes (if using) and about half of the chopped Summer Savory. Stir and close with a fairly heavy lid.

Let the mix rest for ten minutes, during which the couscous will get cooked. Open the lid, stir everything well (breaking any lumps by gently pressing with the back of a spoon) and mix in the aubergines and the rest of the herb (taste and adjust).
Serve with grilled meats or along with vegetarian options.

Notes:
  1. Please do note that Summer Savory tends to vary in sharpness. So taste and go while you are preparing the dish.
  2. You can even use pasta sauce in place of tomato paste. Use about a quarter of a cup and slightly reduce it before adding the stock/water.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Finally, it Rained!


Finally, it rained.

As I went to pick the clothes from the line, I moved as slowly as I could possibly do to soak in as much of the moment as possible. April was merciless with no rain at all and the temperatures had soared almost to forty. It was the worst summer since we had come here (and to think, there really was no great summer here, other than a mild rise in temperatures in March and April, till a few years back!)

It was hard to cook, let alone shoot or write and I let the season pass. Besides, the newspaper photos of the scorched, draught ridden areas from other states were disheartening. Most reports carried the faces - some hopeful and others a mere blank - of farmers fleeing their dried up lands in search of more promising prospects of labour work in cities.

What would you do without water.
What would you do if rain stops falling one year,
And the once rich ground beneath cries out 'no more!',
sheds the last drop of its life blood and lay parched.
What if there is no more water in pipes and reservoirs
And your animals and plants shrivel up and die?
What if there is no more water?

Notes:
  1. I am sorry about the dates. A few of these posts were drafted months before and some of them won't make any sense at all (this post for instance) at this time of the year. So I am just putting the final touches and publishing with the dates intact.  
  2. The photo is an old one taken at home.
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