Ingredients

Khoresh Bademjan – Persian Beef & Aubergine stew

In our garden we have a larch-pole pergola over which a tangle of grapevines drape. Running through them is a rambling clematis, Montana, I think. Underneath stands the big Aussie barbecue on which, in summer at least, I cook my home made sausages and burgers plus steak, chicken and whatever else takes my fancy. The vines provide a degree of shade and repel light showers. They also produce grapes, at least two of them do, the sauvignon blanc and the phoenix. The pinot noir (a vanity project) is perennially infertile. Any fruit rarely ripens - most years I end up with sour grapes (literally and metaphorically) that I chuck into the compost. Last year, faced with a bumper harvest, I cried “enough!” Half-remembering a dish I last ate at an Armenian restaurant in Manchester thirty-odd years ago, I went on the net to find it. Khoresh bademjan is a Persian beef-and-eggplant stew that involves a generous quantity of unripe grapes. As such, it’s proved the answer to this failed vigneron’s prayer. This, my own version, based generally on a traditional one, has evolved over time.

Ingredients

  • 8 small aubergines, halved lengthways (or 2 large aubergines, part-peeled – ‘striped’ then cut into chunks)
  • 1 kg beef.  Can be round steak, chuck steak or anything in between. Best bought in a piece and sliced into strips approx  80 cm x  30 cm  x 20 cm thick. No need to bet too picky about this.
  • 2 onions, 1 cut into quarters, 1 cut into thin slices.
  • 3 cloves garlic,
  • 3 corms turmeric (or 3 tsp powdered turmeric)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups sour grapes (ghoreh) I have read that verjus can substitute for the  sour grapes but have never tried it.
  • ½ teaspoon saffron 
  • olive oil and/or vegetable oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)

Method

  1. Blitz, briefly, the tomato paste, turmeric, garlic and cumin seeds in a food processor.
  2. Season and tenderise the beef according to your favourite method. Tenderising depends on the cut of beef – 1-3 hours in a pan, and on the method used – simmering/pressure cooker/sous vide or whatever your favourite method is. Drain and reserve the beef stock. Discard the onion.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200° C. When heated cook the aubergines as in 6 (below).
  4. Heat a little olive or vegetable oil in a large pan and caramelise the onion slices (10-15 mins). Add the tomato paste/garlic/turmeric/cumin ‘blitz’ and the finely-chopped onion and the beef and briefly ‘brown’ the meat.
  5. Add the tomatoes, sour grapes, the stock plus enough water to cover the beef. Add salt and pepper and cook for about 25 minutes. Top up the liquid if necessary and stir occasionally. Cook without a lid on the pan as you want stock to reduce and thicken.
  6. Place aubergines in a flat dish. Drizzle with olive oil then bake in oven for 20-25mins. Remove, add to beef and at this stage add the saffron if you are using it. Cook for a further 15-20 mins.
  7. Garnish with fresh coriander (if liked just before serving.
  8. Serve with rice or nan bread.

Serves 4-6

Blas na hEireann food awards 2019 – Donegal cheese voted supreme champion

Blas na hÉireann 2019, the Irish food awards, announce this year’s Supreme Champion as Green Pastures Donegal for their Green Pastures Donegal Soft Cheese with Burren Balsamics announced as Best Artisan Product 

Blas na hÉireann, the Irish food awards, announce this year’s winners of the 2019 finals which have just concluded in Dingle, with Green Pastures Donegal crowned Supreme Champion for their Green Pastures Donegal Soft Cheese and Burren Balsamics announced as Best Artisan Product.

Green Pastures Donegal, is a family run business based in Convoy, Co. Donegal, where they mix the tradition and craft of cheese making with modern technology to create a range of dairy products including their winning product, Green Pastures Donegal Soft Cheese. Championing a ‘Natural by Nature’ sustainability programme, Green Pastures Donegal work closely with family farms to advocate and support sustainable farming practices within their milk supply farms. 

Founded in 2014 in Richill Co. Armagh, Burren Balsamics set out to produce a range of fruit infused black balsamic vinegars. The initial range was so well-received that they developed a selection of white balsamic infusions and now have over 15 balsamic vinegars on offer. This is the second time Burren Balsamics have won the Best Artisan Product at Blas na hÉireann, having won in 2017 for their Blackberry & Thyme vinegar, this year they reclaim the crown with their Raspberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar.

Now in their 12th year, the Blas na hÉireann awards are the all-island food awards that recognise the very best Irish food and drink products, and the passionate people behind them. 

The biggest blind tasting of produce in the country, the criteria on which the product is judged as well as the judging system itself, which was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC and the University of Copenhagen, is now recognised as an industry gold standard worldwide. Products entered are blind-tasted, meaning that all packaging and identifying features are removed from products before being presented for judging, creating a level playing field for products from both large and small producers. Judges come from a range of food backgrounds from chefs to restaurateurs, academics, journalists, authors, food champions, caterers and enthusiastic home cooks.

8.6/10

Snacking in Italy

In a local restaurant in Gallipoli, Puglia. Next door is a particularly fine greengrocer’s shop, with an outdoor display. In my halting Italian I got into conversation with the proprietor over a product that turned out to be salted capers. He rolled some up in pommodori secchi (sun-dried tomatoes) and presented them to me. Fantastico!. Bought a quantity of each and brought them back to the apartment to snack on while I watched second half of Preston v Man City on a link. Unbelievable, Jeff! World class snack.

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