A T A S T E O F S U M M E R . . .
There’s nothing like the taste of summer vegetables. Crisp tomatoes, sweet carrots, bright herbs, crunchy lettuces and cucumber, and soft velvety aubergines- I look forward to them all year round.
Over the past year or so I’ve made it my personal challenge to eat within the seasons to the best of my ability. That’s meant no strawberries in October, no courgettes in December, and no tomatoes in February. And at times I’ve found it really, really hard! It’s given me a real appreciation of how lucky we are to have such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables flown in from around the world, and also how much more delicious food is when eaten during the season in which it grows best within our own fair country.
And so with seasonal eating in mind, when Le Creuset, that most beloved classic kitchenware brand, dropped me a line to see if I’d like to create a summer-inspired recipe as part of their Nature’s Kitchen campaign, I jumped at the opportunity!
Due to be released in-store and online later in March, Le Creuset have recently launched a collection called ‘Nature’s Kitchen’, inspired by all that nature offers us be it from land or sea. Alongside some of Le Creuset’s iconic Cast Iron cookware and Stoneware in four new spring and summer-inspired colours, the collection also includes 3-ply Stainless Steel and Toughened Non-Stick products that are the perfect tools for getting the best from fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Le Creuset sent across their completely beautiful Toughened Non-Stick Ribbed Rectangular Grill for me to create the dish with, and it’s fast become the most used piece of kitchen equipment I never knew I needed. Griddled veg? Perfect! Toasted sandwiches? Done in an instant! And I bet it’d be perfect for cooking fish or meat on too, if that’s your jam!
As you know though, for me, veggies are king, queen, and everything in between. As a keen veg grower entering year two of my ‘grow your own’ endeavours, there’s nothing I’m looking forward to more right now than eating from the garden for the first time in 2018. Our living room window ledges are currently heaving under the strain of dozens of seed trays, with broad beans, leeks, chillis, cabbage, and broccoli seedlings, all waiting to the weather to turn warm enough so they can migrate outside. The first pickings of the year will make me a very happy lady indeed!
But until then, it was to the supermarkets I went in search of ingredients for this summer-inspired recipe…
And the centrepiece of this dish are the aubergines, griddled to perfection on the Toughened Non-Stick Ribbed Rectangular Grill.
Doused in olive oil and salt and then set on the sizzlingly hot bars of the pan, the aubergines are turned occasionally until their flesh turns meltingly soft, and then drizzled with some maple syrup or honey or agave. The sweetness sets off their salty, slightly bitter flavour so well, and makes them a dream to eat.
Combined with some thyme-roasted carrots, miso and smoked paprika-dressed chickpeas, soft grains, and a handful of parsley and mint, it’s the perfect summer lunch bowl.
Now, all we need is for winter to wave its final farewell so we can get cooking…
1 large aubergine
Drizzle of maple syrup/honey
1/2tsp dried thyme
3 large carrots
2 cans best quality chickpeas
1tbsp miso paste
1tsp smoked paprika
Juice half a lemon
1 cup quinoa
Salt + extra virgin olive oil
- Slice the carrots into lengths, toss in olive oil, fresh thyme and a pinch of salt, and then place into an oven preheated to 200 degrees celsius for 40 minutes or until cooked through.
- In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and then add the drained chickpeas. Stir in the miso paste, smoked paprika, and lemon juice, and then stir to allow the miso to melt and coat the chickpeas. Fill one of the chickpea cans with water, pour into the pan, turn the heat up high and allow the mixture to bubble for a minute or two until a rich, amber sauce has formed. Turn off the heat, put on a lid, and set aside.
- Slice the aubergine from top to bottom in 1cm slices, brush generously with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Heat the Toughened Non-Stick Ribbed Rectangular Grill over a medium heat, and then lay the aubergine slices onto the bars. When the aubergines have taken on colour and have beautiful dark golden char marks on them, lower the heat under the grill pan and allow the aubergines to cook through.
- Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions, and dress with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- To serve, fluff the grains through with a fork and then tip out onto a large serving plate. Top with the warm chickpeas, roasted carrots, and grilled aubergine. Drizzle the grilled aubergine with the maple syrup/honey, top the whole dish with a handful of chopped parsley, and serve with a side bread to soak up the delicious sauce.
This recipe was created for Le Creuset. The wonderful Nature’s Kitchen collection is now in-store and online, celebrating cooking with beautiful, fresh ingredients this coming season.
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