Scene 1: On the train headed home. Don’t realize I have fallen asleep until I wake myself by going “mhhhhmm” out loud (I sound like I am winded by a punch in the stomach). The lady next to me also wakes up from my noise.
Scene 2: The office, an hour earlier. I walk into the room, it is dark outside and I catch my reflection in the window, scratching the sides of my upper body. (Why do I get itchy sides in winter?) I look like a chimpanzee. Also, I am pretty sure this isn’t the first time I have scratched myself like that. Nor were all previous times in the privacy of my own room.
Scene 3: That morning, in a meeting. Three people are having a discussion when I suddenly pipe up: “Eeeep. Sorry. Carry on.” Hick-ups.
Not a good day for cool.
I redeemed myself, though, by great kitchen innovation that evening. I was making a Marcella Hazan recipe I found on Not Derby Pie. Easy enough, but I was intent on doing the ab-so-lute minimum of work. Enter the brilliant innovation: slicing the eggplant in long strips rather than round slices.
This would have been a rather pointless innovation if it had been about the slicing alone. Long strips require a little less slicing, but take more effort (you know, lifting the knife halfway through a slice to move it down the shaft). However. The strips also had to be fried in single-layer batches. More eggplant fits in a layer of strips than a layer of round slices. I reckon I saved myself at least two batches. Redemption indeed.
No question about it, though: the sauce would have been worth the full amount of frying. It consists of a simple tomato sauce laced with garlic and hot pepper, and combined with strips of fried eggplant. Nothing especially exciting there, but the deep-fat frying gives the eggplant a satiny consistency, with crispy bits of skin for texture. Bathed in the punchy tomato sauce it becomes something luxurious, a voluptuous bite of comfort. I couldn’t stop eating it and have saved the oil I used for frying. Seems a shame to throw it out if I am going to need a new batch so soon. Because, oh yes, this kitchen innovation will be repeated very, very shortly.
- 1 large eggplant, cut into long slices
- oil for frying
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- large pinch of ground, dried chili pepper
- a splash of olive oil
Arrange the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, put the olive oil and the garlic in a pan and place over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until the garlic is a light, golden brown. Chop the tomatoes and add to the garlic together with their juice. Add the chili pepper. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 2o minutes.
When the eggplant has sat in the colander for 20 minutes, heat a 3 cm layer of oil in a sturdy pan and cover a large plate in kitchen towel. The oil should be nice and hot before you start frying- test by sticking in the edge of a slice of eggplant. The oil should hiss and bubble quite ferociously. When hot, slip in as many slices of eggplant as will fit in one layer. Cover the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, until one side is golden brown. Flip over the slices and cook the other side. When the eggplant is cooked, place on the kitchen towel and start a new batch. Continue until all eggplant is cooked.
Slice the cooked eggplant in 3 cm-wide strips and add to the sauce. Warm through and stir to combine thoroughly. Serve over pasta.