Sunday, 15 April 2012

Recipes: Chocolate aubergines, Pepperonata and Ratatouille

One of the things that I love about the Secret Garden Club is that I can experiment within the bounds of the theme that we have set. This week was all about Mediterranean Vegetables. I made Ratatouille vaguely based on the recipe from the movie, Pepperonata, the sunset hued garlicky olive oil mopped up with olive bread, and Chocolate aubergines.
Chocolate aubergines 
I've been dying to try out the seemingly bizarre combination of chocolate and aubergines for a few years now. This is a recipe from the Amalfi region in Italy, using steamed aubergines. There is also a fried aubergine with chocolate recipe which I'll try out at a later date.
6 finger aubergines, keep the stalks on.
125g ricotta
100g candied fruit (expensive ones if possible), diced
3 tablespoons of sugar
100g of dark chocolate, broken into pieces. Save a little to grate into the ricotta.
3 tablespoons of Southern Comfort
100g of double cream

Steam the aubergines for 15 minutes or so, until a fork easily pierces them.
In the meantime mix the ricotta with the diced candied fruit, a little grated chocolate and the sugar.
Make the sauce: warming the cream and Southern Comfort, then adding the chocolate.
Remove the aubergines from the steam and slit them down the middle on one side, just enough to make a little pouch for the stuffing. 
Dust each aubergine inside with a little more sugar.
Put a large tablespoon of the ricotta stuffing in each aubergine.
Place on a dish and pour the chocolate sauce over.
Chill for a couple of hours then serve.
You can add some more diced candied fruit on top if you wish.

Ratatouille with saffron, yoghurt and sumac

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille

This is an adaptation of the recipe from the film. But I’ve added saffron and sumac to lend this typically Provencale dish a Middle Eastern flavour.
 It’s a little bit of a pfaff, probably takes a couple of hours to make all in all but it’s the taste of sunshine on  a plate.
Serves 4
2  red/orange bell peppers, seeded, roasted and skinned
4 tomatoes, skinned and seeded, then diced.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tspn of Salt
A pinch of saffron
A glug of Verjuice (a less acidic kind of vinegar)
Few sprigs fresh thyme, oregano
1 firm aubergine, thinly sliced
2 small courgettes, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste (Salt isn’t bad for you if you use good sea salt with plenty of minerals)
150ml yoghurt with a tablespoon of Sumac stirred in, for serving

Preheat oven to 200C.
1.       Cut your peppers in half and place them cut side down on an olive oiled roasting tray. Roast for 20 minutes. Then skin. When cool, dice.
2.       Cut a cross in the top of your tomatoes and drop them briefly into boiling water. The skins will easily pull off the tomatoes now. Cut in half and remove the seeds. Dice the tomatoes, keeping the juice.
3.       In the meantime, put olive oil into your saucepan/frying pan and sweat the onions.
4.       Add the garlic, the salt, the saffron, the herbs and the verjuice.
5.       Add the diced tomato with juices.
6.       Prep the aubergine and courgette by slicing both thinly, say 5mm thick slices. Obviously don’t use the stems!
7.       Put your nicely softened pepper, onion, saffron, herby mix (but remove the Thyme sprig sticks if they are woody, leaves are fine) onto an olive oiled roasting tray. Yeah use the same one as before, who needs to wash up more?
8.       Arrange the slices of aubergine and courgette in overlapping slices onto spread out mixture.
9.       Cover with foil and roast for 45 to 55  minutes in your 200C oven. The vegetable should be soft but not watery. 
10. Remove from oven, remove the foil and roast, uncovered for another ten minutes.
11. Top with yoghurt and sumac and more herbs. 

Eat with crusty bread or couscous.


I made this with a variety of sizes and types of peppers. 

Olive oil
2 Romano peppers
2 red bell peppers
1 yellow bell pepper
6 baby sweet peppers
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt, at least a tablespoon but keep tasting as you go along and add more if needed
Chopped herbs, marjoram and oregano
2 bay leaves, fresh if you can
A glug of Verjuice
2 tablespoon of capers
1 tablespoon of pickled green peppercorns (optional)

Preheat your oven to 180c.
Oil a baking tray with olive oil. Put all the peppers on it whole and roast for 15-20 minutes.
Take them out and strip of the skins, remove seeds and cut into 2cm strips.
In a heavy pan with a lid that can go in the oven, sweat the onion in the olive oil, do not let it burn, it should be soft. 
Add the garlic, salt, herbs, verjuice.
Then add the pepper strips.
Put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes. The peppers should be soft and sweet.
Add the capers and peppercorns. 

Serve with bread and goat's cheese and a glass of Rosé.

Next Secret Garden Club 27th of May: Three sisters, corn, beans and squash.


  1. Peperonata and Ratatouille look divine, so summery!

    I like to think of myself as being quite open-minded, but have to admit the chocolate aubergines caused a slightly furrowed brow! That said, I am a little curious so I may have to pluck up the courage to give it a go.

    You didn't mention whether you enjoyed the combination, though – would you make it again?

  2. i have never thought of preparing aubergines with chocolate, but seeing your dish has made me want to try it.

  3. Sheena, we really enjoyed it! I want to try it fried too.

  4. You are so brilliant!!! I really do wanna have a try!!!!

  5. u've been surrounded by Chinese!

  6. Oh my eyes!!! Oh my eyes!!!

  7. oh my goodness this looks divine! i love chocolate and vegetable combinations like courgette and chocolate cake. will try this. thanks. becca

  8. Chocolate aubergines? Well that's different! When you think about it it makes sense - aubergines have a high sugar content, and we use carrots, parsnips & beetroot in baking. But it takes someone like you to make it happen!

    1. I have to admit James that this is a recipe that is well known in Sicily! And it works really well...


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