Nigel Slater's recipe for eggplant, lemon and parsley couscous, and for pear, walnuts and gorgonzola

The spicy roasted vegetable stew of aubergines is well worth having for a while, followed by a sweet treat of warm pears and peanuts

My heavy cast iron casserole has withstood this winter. The enameled interior tarnished by decades of curries, stews, and long, slow cooking, there's barely a week it hasn't sat on the stove or in the oven, its contents decaying gently to softness. This week, my dear old friend (at least 25 years old) maintains a herb-flavored eggplant dish seasoned with bay, chili flakes, and herbs, the sauce being the deep brick red from a recipe that includes red wine and tomatoes.

I should have waited to lift the lid until the pot was on the table, when everyone could share the aroma of the steam and the subtle aromas of the spices. But, as a cook, there's always a natural temptation to peek at your handiwork.

The lid is lifted and a spoon sunk deep into the sauce, we scoop it all up with a mound of couscous speckled with lemon zest and parsley. The next day, I sniffed the leftovers, ate it cold, like caponata on flatbread, and followed it up with warm pears, gorgonzola and toasted walnuts.

Slow-cooked eggplant, lemon and parsley couscous

  • Serves 4 as a delicious main course.
  • For eggplant:
  • eggplant 800g
  • olive oil 100ml
  • onions 2, medium
  • garlic 4 cloves
  • bay leaf 4
  • thyme sprigs 6
  • chili flakes 1 tsp
  • cumin seeds 1 tsp
  • coriander powder 2 tsp
  • salt 1 tsp
  • tomatoes 350g
  • tomato puree 2 tbsp
  • red wine 250ml
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • For the couscous:
  • fine couscous 150g
  • lemons 1
  • coriander leaves 4 tbsp

Remove and remove the stem from the eggplant. Cut it in half lengthwise and then into quarters. Cut each piece into 3 cm long pieces.

Warm the pan (you will need to turn on the extractor fan or open a window). Place the eggplant half on the pan, let it cook for a few minutes until dark streaks appear on the bottom, then flip and repeat. Remove with kitchen tongs and set aside. Continue with the remaining eggplant.

Peel and coarsely chop the onion. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet that will also be in the oven. Add onions. Let them cook for 10 minutes or so until soft and translucent. Peel and thinly slice the garlic, then add to the onions and continue cooking for a minute or two. Preheat oven to 190C/gas mark 5.

Stir in bay leaf, thyme, chili, cumin, coriander and salt. Continue cooking for a few minutes until everything is glossy.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan, then stir in the tomato puree. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, then pour in the wine and stock, put on fire and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Let it roast for about 45 minutes until the eggplant is soft and the sauce is rich and thick.

To make couscous: turn on the kettle. Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl, pour enough boiling water to cover the grains by 2 cm, cover and set aside for 10 minutes until the couscous swells and absorbs all the water. Finely chop the parsley, grate the lemon zest and stir it into the couscous with a fork. Serve with eggplant.

Pears, walnuts and gorgonzola

When adding the walnuts to the skillet, cook them only briefly, just enough to warm them up. Overcooking the walnuts will make them bitter. If you have walnut oil at home, use half olive oil and half walnut oil for dressing. Serving 2

sourdough or other open textured

  • white bread 200g
  • olive oil 4 tbsp
  • walnut halves 25g
  • Comic or other large pear 2
  • butter 20g
  • gorgonzola 200g
  • lettuce or chicory 6
  • For the dressing:
  • Dijon mustard 1 tsp
  • honey 1 tsp
  • cider vinegar 2 tbsp
  • olive oil 4 tbsp

Make the sauce: put the mustard in a small bowl, add honey and a pinch of salt. Pour in the vinegar, then using a small whisk or fork, whisk in the olive oil. Grind a little salt and black pepper and set aside.

Slice the pears in half, then cut each into 3 thick slices from stem to blossom end, removing core as you go.

Remove the crust from the bread, then tear the bread into small, coarse pieces. Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan over medium heat, place the patties in the hot oil and cook them for a few minutes on each side until they are crisp and golden. When you turn the bread, add the walnuts to the skillet and let them warm. Remove bread and beans from skillet and drain on kitchen paper.

Place the pear slices in the pan, with the butter and a little more oil if the bread has soaked it all, then cook for 5 or 6 minutes on each side until the pears are tender and well colored.

Transfer the cooked pears to the sauce, add the crunchy bread and walnuts and toss gently to coat everything with the sauce.

Put the leaves on 2 plates, add pears, nuts and bread. Spoon the gorgonzola next to the pears, pour over the remaining sauce and serve.

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