Aubergine Spaghetti ‘Bolognaise’

Last night I set out to make Spaghetti Bolognaise and failed –  in a good way…!

As a way of getting more veg, I’d decided that I’d make spag bog, but use half aubergine, half mince.  I love aubergine and it goes so well with a tomato sauce that I figured it would work.  So, what failed?  What I thought was a small ball of mince in the freezer turned out to be slices of lamb, rolled up, and so I had all the ingredients of a bolognaise sans the important bit – meat!  Now, being conscientious of the fact that bolognaise requires meat (I don’t believe that sausage or haggis should have the label ‘vegetarian’ in any shape or form as part of their name) , what I really ended up making was, sortof  ‘marinara’ sauce. Sortofkinda.

Anyway.

It was damn tasty, so I’m going to write down how I made it as otherwise I’ll forget since I had to make a few changes to account of the lack of meat (which, I think,  gives  bolognaise it’s ‘depth’ of flavour).  Aubergine really soaks up flavour, so I added a little more stock than usual as well as black pepper.

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines (I had one medium and one small)
  • 1 tub passata (500g)
  • tomato purée
  • 1 tin peeled plum tomatoes (400g)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion (medium sized)
  • 3  stock cubes (any meat flavour, pref a mix)
  • 2-3tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ teaspoon each of  marjoram, parsley, oregano (or 1 and ½ tsp of mixed herbs)
  • pinch of ground coriander
  • pasta (would go ok with rice too, probably)
  • ~2 tbsp of sugar (really, you need to adjust this to taste)
  • black pepper / salt
  • parmesan (to serve)

Makes enough for four people with normal appetites or the two of us with enough left for Andy’s lunch the next

Method

  1. Cut the aubergine – this part was intuition but turned out to really help how the dish turned out.  I chopped the medium aubergine into roughly 2cm cubes and the smaller aubergine into ½-1cm cubes. The larger pieces gave the dish ‘bite’, and the smaller pieces almost fell apart, thickening the sauce and lending it another layer of texture.
  2. Cut the onion and garlic up finely and stick in a frying pan for a few minutes with a little of the oil until they start to change colour.
  3. Add the rest of the oil and turn the temperature down a bit, leaving it until the aubergine is lightly browned and softened.
  4. Whilst you’re waiting on that, stick on the kettle (you’ll need ~400ml of water) put the passata, purée, and tomatoes (making sure they’re well chopped) into a pot.  Stick in some salt and pepper as well as the small pieces of aubergine.
  5. I happened to have half a beef and half a chicken stock cube, so I made that up into 400ml of stock and added about half of it to the aubergine mix in the frying pan, letting it reduce a little, before adding the rest of the stock and contents of the frying pan into the pot of tomato-stuff.
  6. I let this cook for a bit on a medium heat, turning to low when it started to simmer, and then decided to add more stock (1 chicken and 1 pork) with no water, just crumbling it right into the sauce.
  7. Let this reduce for around 30 minutes, adding the sugar after ~15-20.
  8. Stick your pasta on.
  9. Taste at 30 mins and add a little sugar if it’s too sharp or salt / pepper if the flavour is a little lacking.

Although it was a good bit thinner than my bolognaise is (and a lot less sweet, since I figured aubergine + sweet = blech) it thickened up after a few minutes of standing (in the time it took me to serve and get it to the living room).

Blog Changes

On a complete tangent – I’ve changed the wordpress theme I’m using to accommodate a more dynamic sidebar.  I’m not entirely satisfied with this one yet (though it’s wonderfully made and more customisable in a basic way than many other built in ones), but I think I’m going to have a go at editing it to be wider, if possible, and change the colours / images around a bit.

The reason for the change was to accommodate my ‘Plant Feed’.  I have a lot of little random comments I want to ‘share’ about my plants (and have a note of) without making a whole blog post so I’ve been trying out various ways of getting that info into the sidebar.  My first thought was to stick my twitter right up there… but I tweet a lot of random stuff and don’t really want the spam, so I looked for some alternatives and found a plug-in which would post blog posts into the sidebar.  Awesome… except even if they were only 1-2 line sidebar updates, they’d post to my twitterfeed and livejournal if I didn’t go in and turn that off every time.  Oh and I needed to go right into the full editing mode on wordpress as it required setting a specific category, which quick posting doesn’t allow.

So, I turned back to twitter…  I’ve set up another account (an icky workaround) but, because I use twitterfox aka echofon, it means I can post directly from my browser to the sidebar of my blog.  So, twitter plugins for wordpress – I knew there were a good few and I found them and… they don’t work.  Blech.  One of the addons (TwitterWidgetPro) had a really helpful set of posts to help you figure out bugs and gave some tips on the issue I had – which seems to be common.  I checked out the common effects1 and… no dice.  Hmm.
After about 20-30 minutes, I realised that twitter doesn’t seem to, yet, have properly farmed out my new name even internally (can’t find it in user search etc.), so what I’m guessing is that when it finally propagates (pun not intended) my sidebar might start working.  If not, I’ll have to figure out another way to deal with it.   Here’s hoping.

1. The basic issue is that, to stop overloading (it seems), twitter only allows 150 api calls per hour.  This includes things like echofon, tweetdeck and sidebar widgets.  If you overstretch this limit (easy to do if you’re, say, checking out a new plugin and spam refreshing the page, have a lot of hits on the page or share an ip with someone else who does / has the aforementioned).  I checked for this based on instructions here and found that I hadn’t hit the limit, so it shouldn’t be that.  I also set slow refresh rates and enabled wordpress super cache too (not sure why it wasn’t enabled anyway…).

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Planting

I’ve finally gotten around to ordering seeds for my veg garden to be – throwing my worries to the wind.  I’d been holding back because, really, I’d been swamped by the variety of plants available and a little intimidated by the fact that, well, it’s Scotland, for goodness sake – half the plants I’d love to grow just won’t live this far north without a greenhouse.  So, I pulled up a large list of seeds and picked about 13 types of fruit / veg with a few ‘edible’ flowers  from the list by discarding anything which was not hardy or needed higher growing temperatures than we can be assured of.

So far, the list looks like this:

  • Onions
  • Courgette
  • Broccoli
  • Pak choi
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower (small variety)
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Alpine Strawberry
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Chives
  • Sweetcorn (and mini sweetcorn)
  • Marigolds
  • Sunflowers

So, on its way to me are a rather large number of seeds. In my hands are a large packet of seeds – they arrived unexpectedly early just hours after I started to put together this post!   The one little problem I had is that I don’t have an awful lot of workspace.  Currently, all of my little chilli and herb plantlets are crowded in the kitchen windowsill, with silver-foil backing to eke out the most of the wan sunlight available at this time of year.  After 3 months we have, at most, 4 leaves.  I’m hoping their new, bigger pots and some bottle-cloches I made will bring them on a bit!

The egg carton made a really good set of seed ‘pots’.

Anyways, so, very little space is left in the kitchen.  I thus decided to make sure of the large unit we have in the spare bedroom.  Until a few days ago, it was piled with random stuff against the internal wall – it’s now up against the window and all the books / picture frames etc. have been replaced by planting equipment.  I’ve been reading a lot, in the past few days, about easy ways to make little recyclable pots from newspaper and loo rolls, so I’ve put some of them together and I’m saving more plastic 2L bottles for cloches and (hopefully eventually) upside-down planters (more growing room!).   I might see if I can get my hands on some re-usable seedling trays, though – I do have rather a lot of little plants to grow…

Since the plants arrived earlier than expected, I’ve already put some broccoli and strawberries in a seed tray (1/3 of a tray each) and 3 pea seeds for use in an indoor upside-down planter to see how that works out.  Even if they don’t do superbly I have something like 100+ pea seeds so it’s no real loss.  I don’t expect to see strawberry seedlings for a while but the peans should be up pretty quickly and the broccoli not too long after!

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