A Disastrous Meal

I have been less than enamoured with much of the food that I’ve cooked this week, with the exception of the salt beef (although only time and tasting will tell). Sometimes you get weeks like that. You feel all discombobulated, out of sorts if you will and it will reflect in your cooking if you let it.
I had a completely disastrous experience with a pair of aubergines and a recipe that I culled from www.uktvfood.co.uk website. Let me elaborate. Regular readers may recall that I had an aubergine in my fridge a couple of weeks back, which I turned into a delicious vegetarian chilli (recipe courtesy of the same, aforementioned UKTV site). This time, however, I was looking to make something a bit different, maybe involving pastry and cheese. I found a recipe, Sephardi Aubergine Pies. It seemed to fulfil my every requirement for a new dish: an interesting pastry (made with olive oil instead of butter/lard), stuffed with a yummy sounding filling (roast aubergine, feta and gruyere cheese mixed with Za’atar), turned into darling little pasties and baked. Perfetto!
Actually, not perfetto. The dough was easy enough to prepare, beating together olive oil with some water and the flour. It formed a firm dough that didn’t require lengthy refrigeration to render it usable, thereby ensuring full stomachs, quicker. The aubergines needed charring over a gas hotplate which we don’t have so I shoved them under a scorchingly hot grill instead and watched them like a fearful mother hawk as their purple lustre turned to blackened wrinkliness, like giant prunes. I devotedly peeled every scrap of the black skin from those burning hot eggplants, and enjoyed the weetabix-type smell that they gave out. I mixed them with the two cheeses, carefully added a sprinkling of the za’atar and got to work on the pastry. This is where it all turns to ruins.
The pastry is incredibly dry, dryer than the skin on an opened tin of gloss paint that’s been left out in the sun. I add water and then some oil. This makes the dough more workable but then it sticks to the work surface, despite me flouring it.
So, I manage to make about 10 little circles. I am feeling extremely dubious by now because I can see how the dough is drying out and cracking before my eyes. I carry out regardless. I am not about to waste my aubergines! I spoon the mixture into the centre of each circle. I attempt to fold the pastry up into a purse shape, as per the recipe. This absolutely does not work. The pastry is crumbling around my fingertips. I try another way. Folding them in half, like English pasties. They crack and break up. If there is one thing that irritates me more than anything, it’s an incorrect recipe or one that doesn’t tell you how to rescue a disaster!
My husband, creeping into the kitchen tentatively, wondering what all the cries of anguish are, saves the day. He suggests I cook them as they are: open topped. I weep gratefully and slam them in the oven. Meanwhile, he gently suggests that perhaps he should make cannelini beans with chorizo, just as a side dish you understand. I nod.
10 minutes later, the aubergine saucers are ready. The pastry looks dry, brittle and dull.
Still, my husband dishes up his beautious canellini bean dish and I arrange my little open topped pasties alongside. We bite into them. Paul politely eats them although he gives the pastry to the dogs. Even they don’t like it. The topping tastes fusty and stale. The Za’atar is much too pungent the delicate aubergine and cheese mixture and overpowers everything.
Still, the cannelini beans are good. As was the Fig and Honey Ice Cream I had for dessert.
I am consoling myself with the knowledge that I have a ball of egg pasta that I made (for the first time!) in the fridge, chilling down for me to turn it into squash and amaretti biscuit ravioli tonight and two little partridge waiting for the perfect recipe. I am also making lemon possets for dessert tomorrow. The weekend looks culinarily optimistic. I shall keep you posted.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Freya - I have had those days too - I know how it feels and it is horrid. But some recipes are always going to fail if you cook as much as we do. So it's normal!

Dashing out now but have more to say later!