Like so many others more or less isolated at home, I am cooking, for many reasons. We have to eat. Eating is a pleasurable activity, and cooking is a purposeful activity with a pleasurable outcome. Of course everyone is cooking more. I am also posting a daily dish on Instagram and Facebook. That was at a friend’s request, who wanted a daily dish to give him ideas of what to cook.
So I have made a not-quite-tagine of chicken and quince, but have to make it at least twice more before I am happy enough with the result to share it. I’ve also made red cabbage with chestnuts, Spanish-style chicken with red peppers, caponata, bread and butter pudding… among many others.
Here are some of the recipes. Quantities aren’t precise: these recipes are for two or three people, except for the red cabbage. A quarter of a cabbage will feed six generously.
Bread and butter pudding: Hot cross buns work well for this, or challah (egg loaf). Slice two hot cross buns vertically into about four slices each. Butter them well, and lay them in a buttered dish. Sprinkle generously with sugar, less generously with cinnamon, and scatter some sultanas or raisins. Whisk two eggs with a little extra sugar (only a dessertspoon, if that), and then add about 350ml-400ml warm milk. Pour the milk mixture over the bread slices and bake at 160 C until brown. Allow at least 40 minutes, usually 50. Don’t be tempted to speed up the cooking by increasing the oven temperature. Too high a heat will lose the smoothness of the custard.
Caponata: One of my favourite dishes, originally from Sicily. There are probably as many versions as there are people who make it, but this is my preferred. To serve three to four people, allow one good-sized eggplant, two ripe tomatoes (peeled), half a red onion (wrap up the rest and use it the following day for something else), garlic, some celery, olive oil, red wine vinegar, capers, some olives (stoned), parsley.
Cut the eggplant into cubes (about a thumb width, say 2cm), put in a colander and salt well. Leave alone for an hour, then rinse, and push out some of the liquid with the palm of your hand. Then pat with a paper towel. Fry them in olive oil until soft and browned. Leave to one side.
Chop the onion, or quarter it and slice it. Cook it in olive oil until it softens. Add the garlic, and when its aroma rises, add the chopped tomatoes and celery (a couple of tablespoonsful). Let them cook for about five minutes, until the tomatoes have softened and released their juices, then add a generous splash of red wine vinegar. Add the eggplant to the mix, stir gently, then add the capers and stoned olives. Check the seasoning, add some chopped parsley. Eat hot or cold.
When I made this the other night, I had no celery in the house. It’s better with, but you can leave it out.