There are many treats to be had in the city of Edinburgh and walking to work via Prince’s Street Gardens and the sea of red, yellow and orange leaves is one of the biggest treats that comes with living in this city. There’s enough chill in the air now to make our noses turn pink. We are deep into Autumn. (This is the perfect time of year for afternoons of fairy tales, blankets and crunchy apples.)
While I obviously haven’t been blogging on a regular basis, I have been finding time here and there to do lots of other important things like attempting to clean out the pantry (except that no one wants to eat that long forgotten dusty looking bag of lentils). And adding blankets to the bed. And most importantly, remembering. Autumn is so good at inviting forgotten memories out for a little chat.
Occasionally I like to buy cookbooks to help preserve a special memory (or at least, that’s one of the ways I justify a toppling stack of books) and I have one in particular from our honeymoon that I love to look through and cook from. It’s called Breakfast, Lunch, Tea and is from Rose Bakery in Paris.
We had lunch at the bakery on one of those hot Paris summer days and I desperately wanted to buy myself the beautiful Phaidon cookbook while there, but they only had copies in French. I bought it later from Books to Cooks, and every time I make something from it, I remember that golden afternoon. We ate crunchy greens and potato courgette pesto salad (which was so good we recreated it in our flat for dinner that night as well), followed by the infamous carrot cake and then sipped our afternoon coffee from the green pottery mugs made especially for the Bakery.
And now that it’s getting cold enough to make us (or me anyways) want to eat some form of potatoes for every meal, I’ve been looking through my books for cosy meal inspiration. I’d never made risotto before making this Roasted Tomato, Aubergine and Mint version, and now I can’t get enough. It feels like the right thing to be eating after walking home, crunching leaves or as tiny raindrops hit our windows. It feels like it might turn into a memory of a Scottish autumn.
Tomato, Aubergine and Mint Risotto
Adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini
In her book, Carrarini suggests that you could replace the vegetables with any others of your choosing, listing porcini and tomato and softened leek and chestnut as a couple of her favourites. I’ve added courgette (zucchini) in addition to the others and it was a good choice. Another tip from her is to add a teaspoon of sugar just before serving if your tomatoes are too acidic, but I’ve never needed to.
8 tomatoes, halved (I’ve also used cherry tomatoes, usually going for about triple as many, but you could do more or less if you were so inclined.)
3 aubergines, chopped into 3 cm chunks
4 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for roasting the vegetables
1/4 cup butter
2 onions, diced finely
salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups risotto rice
6 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large handfuls of fresh mint, chopped
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius (400 Fahrenheit, Gas Mark 6). Roast the tomatoes skin side up for about 30 minutes (less for cherry tomatoes, I would start checking them after 10-15 minutes) until the liquid has evaporated and the skins can be easily slipped off. At the same time, roast the aubergine chunks, coated with oil. They should take around the same time, but the end goal is for them to be soft, not rubbery.
Put the 4 Tbsp of oil and butter into a saucepan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft but not yet starting to brown.
Pour in the rice and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously until the grains become translucent. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed all the liquid before adding more. After about 5-10 minutes, add the roasted tomatoes and aubergines. Continue adding the stock until you have a creamy consistency. Risotto rice should be slightly ‘al dente’ when cooked and the mixture should hold together.
Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and mint. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
If you plan on having leftovers for another day, serve with the mint to be added at the table to each individual bowl. Then when you reheat the risotto, you will still have the fresh mint flavour.