Someone told me, I think it was Mrs Bovary, that after 35, women don’t need to eat as much protein. And ever since then – I don’t know if it’s psychosomatic or what, but I’ve been feeling like she’s right. I don’t need to or really want to.
I’m not a no-meat person, I’m a not-very-much meat person. And I find that with a lot of dishes, just a dash of meat to add the undertone of umami brings meaning and purpose to a dish almost entirely composed of vegetables.
So it is with this summer stew of aubergines, courgettes and peppers, which you can flavour with a single cooking chorizo or two slender merguez or even an Italian sausage if you like.
I have always made the mistake of doing this kind of vegetable dish roasted dry in the oven, resulting in a charred, post-apocalyptic catastrophe. Braised gently in the oven with some stock, you get something almost fresh.
Heat your oven to 180C
2 aubergine, chopped into biggish piece as it will shrink on cooking
2 courgette, chopped
1 of these long red peppers (or two fatty ones)
1 onion, quartered
1 tsp of vinegar – any sort
3 cloves of garlic
chicken stock – about a pint? Just from a cube is fine. I like the stock you get in those sealed packet from Waitrose… the Cook’s Ingredients range or WTF
salt and pepper
a chorizo, merguez or Italian sausage, chopped into cubes or rounds
1 In a casserole that has a lid, gently heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put in the sausage, onion and garlic. Turn all this until the sausage is browning at the edges.
2 Tip in all the chopped veg and turn it in the oil a bit. Throw over a big pinch of salt, the vinegar and about six or seven turns of the pepper grinder.
3 When it’s all looking pretty hot, pour in enough stock to come halfway up the sides of the veg, it should sort of pool around but not drown everything. Keep this on the hob until the stock starts to steam or even simmer a little.
4 Put in the oven with a lid on for 1.5hrs. Stir once after 30 min and again after one hour. Avoid if you can stirring the pot after the veg have started to soften and collapse or you will get a mush. If you feel like you need to do something, give it a shake.
In the photo above I have added a pangratto, which is Italian for fried breadcrumbs. I whizzed up some bread in a whizzer with olive oil, garlic and parsley and then fried it for about 10 minutes in a dry frying pan. This is totally optional.