Nigel Slater’s recipes for baked aubergine with white beans and thyme, and banana brioche pudding | Food
There has been a slight change of step in the kitchen. The jars of beans have come down from the top shelf to bake with aubergines and onions; the oven is on again (albeit less often than last autumn) and what I cook is as much about warming up a chilly evening as about the love of cooking. There has been a show of hot puddings, too: crumbles and crisps made with autumn fruit; a proper apple pie with a shortcrust pastry crust glistening with sugar and the first bread and butter pudding of the season.
If I was only allowed one season in the kitchen it would be this. Every meal still has fruit and vegetables at its heart, but there is a substantiality to the suppers that is missing in the summer. We are a long way from lentil pies and treacle-smeared steamed puddings, but also from the “substantial salads” that have occupied my time for the past few months. Deep autumn – the mounds of dried leaves, the occasional rain sodden day, the smell of bonfires in the gardens – brings with it a hankering for a few more carbs, be it beans, rice or bread.
I baked aubergines this week. A long, slow bake, the flesh rich with olive oil and as soft as a silk scarf. To the baking dish came some fat and floury beans, thyme and masses of sweet onions. As the oven was on, I baked a pudding, too, a version of bread and butter pudding made with brioche and bananas. Light and quivering custard holding crumbled sweet bread and – all too rare in my kitchen – baked bananas. And I know it sounds like too much of a good thing, but the pudding is wonderful with a little cream, poured over at the table.
Baked aubergine with white beans and thyme
I prefer the bottled variety beans for this recipe – they are more expensive than dried, but you save the cost of cooking them – but you could use canned beans if you prefer. Including the canning or bottling liquid juices is essential. Serves 3
aubergines 3, medium
olive oil 125ml
onions 3, medium
garlic 4 cloves
thyme sprigs 8
rosemary leaves 1 tbsp, chopped
dry sherry 50ml
vegetable stock 100ml
bay leaves 3
judion, cannellini or butter beans 1 x 500g jar or 2 x 400g cans
Cut the aubergines in half lengthways. Score them, lattice style, on their cut sides. Warm the olive oil in a large, shallow pan and place the aubergine, cut side down in the pan. Over a moderate heat, lightly brown the aubergines, then remove from the pan. (You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your aubergines and your pan.)
Set the oven at 200C/gas 6. While the aubergines are browning, peel the onions, cut them in half from root to tip and then into thick segments. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Return the pan to the heat, add a little more oil, then the onions and garlic, thyme sprigs, rosemary and bay leaves. Let the onions cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring now and again, until they have softened and are showing a little golden colour on the edges.
Pour in the sherry, and the stock, season with salt and black pepper and let it bubble for a minute or two, then place in the oven and leave for 45 minutes or until the aubergines are almost fully soft and the onions golden. Carefully lift out the aubergines, add the beans and their bottling liquid, and stir to mix with the onions and aromatics. Replace the aubergines and return to the oven for 20 minutes until all is hot, soft and fragrant.
Banana brioche pudding
A light, slightly sweeter version of the classic bread and butter pudding. I often use soft brioche buns for this, curiously easier to get hold of than a loaf sometimes. If no form of brioche is available, use a soft white loaf such as milk bread instead. Serves 4
For the custard:
full-cream milk 250ml
double cream 250ml
green cardamoms 6
eggs 3, large plus 1 yolk
caster sugar 125g
bananas 3, medium
brandy 1 tbsp (optional)
brioche 6 x 1cm-thick slices or 4 brioche buns, 300g total weight
caster sugar a little to finish
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan – I use a nonstick milk pan. Crack open the cardamom pods, remove the seeds and grind to a fine powder using a pestle and mortar. (By all means use ready ground cardamom, but that means you will lose something of the spice’s magic.) Put the ground cardamom into the milk and cream and bring to the boil. As soon as the milk starts to rise up the pan, remove immediately from the heat and set aside to infuse.
Beat together the eggs, extra yolk and sugar until pale and thick. Pour the milk and cream through a sieve and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Slice the bananas into ½cm pieces. Tear the brioche into bits roughly 4 cm square. There is no need to be too accurate here. Pour a little of the custard into a 22cm diameter baking dish. Layer the pieces of brioche and the bananas in the dish, sprinkling over a little of the brandy as you go, then pour over the rest of the cardamom custard. Grate a little orange zest over the surface. Scatter with a little caster sugar and bake for 40 minutes until lightly puffed and golden.
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