A bite of sunshine

Sometimes, things don’t quite work out the way you plan.

Take last Wednesday; I had a whole day off but I got myself out of bed at a reasonable time, got myself dressed in normal clothes rather than training gear, and got myself out the door right on time, and after an hour of travelling I arrived at the station I was meeting my friend at. I found a patch of sunshine sheltered from the wind, looked up where we were going for lunch and how to get there, and waited patiently… After half an hour, I decided to text her to see how she was getting on.

That’s when she pointed out to me that we had changed the date of our lunch to the following day. Oops.

My instinct said to just head straight into the gym, do my session earlier than planned, then go home to finish up my work. My heart said to head to our usual coffee shop and do my work there. My head (and Ben) said to go home and make up the lost time and money by staying put and getting on with work.

So I compromised; it was sunny, so I couldn’t stomach sitting at my desk (i.e. bed) and staring at a screen all afternoon. But part of the work I had on my to-do list was to come up with some sort of recipe involving a speciality mustard I was sent in order to take part in a culinary challenge… hardly a priority, but I felt it was definitely the best use of my time.

As soon as I ordered the Mustard with White Wine, Red Pepper and Garlic, I knew what I was going to make; some sort of filling to wrap up in strips of grilled aubergine. I just knew the meaty, salty, juicy qualities of the aubergine would compliment the tangy, fruity red pepper flavours.

I was right. The taste was fantastic!

Provencale aubergine rolls

Unfortunately, love is blind, and I love aubergine so much I had forgotten what a visually unappealing ingredient it can be. As one of the elements the participating bloggers are being judged on in this challenge is “Visual Appeal”, I had to accept that this was not a worthy submission.

Provencale aubergine rollsI tried every angle; I skewered and re-skewered, rolled and unrolled, tweaked and adjusted and wiped, but there was nothing to be done. They’re just not pretty. I’d still serve these on a platter to guests if I ever hosted an event where nibbles and canapés were required, but I won’t be making these again when close-up shots are required! My day was not going well…

So I drew on the positives. This dip. Silky and creamy and what I’d imagine a spiced soft cheese filling to be like with a touch of tanginess and a hint of fruitiness.

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Easy and quick to whip up; high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and full of health-promoting spices. Vibrant in colour and highly versatile.

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I’m going to call it Sunshine Dip, because it’s all about the sunshine. I’d have called it Silver Linings Dip if it had been less bright and more grey, which would have been a more fitting name but a less appetising dish, so I’m not complaining.

You’ll need:

200g firm tofu
50g (2 tbsp) Maille mustard with White Wine, Red Pepper and Garlic
30g (1 tbsp) tahini
2g (1/2 tsp) smoked paprika*
salt to taste**

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients except the salt to a food processor, blend until fully combined, pausing to scrape down the sides if necessary
  2. Taste and add salt if needed

*plain paprika will be fine if you can’t get hold of smoked
**I didn’t add any salt to the dip that was being used as a filling, but I’d recommend adding some if using as a crudité dip. Simply fill any vegetables first, straight from the food processor, then add salt, blend to combine, and transfer to a serving dish.

Optional add-ins: smoked Tabasco for a bit of a kick, nutritional yeast for some cheesy comfort, lightly toasted seeds for a crunch – this recipe is so easy, you might as well try all three!

I added a pinch of additional smoked paprika as well as a pinch of turmeric for a splash of colour when serving:Provencale dip

Now the irony of this post – all about how sometimes things don’t work out as planned – is that it is the last thing that was ever typed on my laptop. Halfway through this post, I shut my computer down, popped it in my bag, and got on with my day. On my way home that evening, I spilled some of the water from the flowers that were given us to cheer us up after our burglary. It dripped into my backpack and found its way to the back panel of my laptop, where it seeped in and wreaked havoc. Goodbye faithful computer, and goodbye additional recipe shots.

See, as well as enjoying this as a dip and rolled up in slices of grilled aubergine, I also stuffed some white cup mushrooms with it and roasted them. It was an entirely different experience; the juicy and meaty mushrooms stood in well for the aubergine’s qualities, whilst being entirely more aesthetically pleasing and offering none of the fear of unravelling. Plus, as the tofu cooked, the filling became firmer and slightly creamier.

Provençale Mushroom Bites

You’ll need:

about 15 white cup mushrooms of roughly 2-3 inches in diameter
1 tbsp (15ml) olive oil
1 tsp (5g) salt
1 recipe Sunshine Dip

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC
  2. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems, then peel by pulling away at the loose skin ends from the gap left by the stem. This isn’t essential but will ensure you can fill the mushrooms fully.
  3. Transfer the mushrooms to a shallow roasting tin, add the olive oil and salt and toss to coat. Arrange all the mushrooms cap down, so that the holes are facing up.
  4. Scoop about a tablespoon of Sunshine Dip into each mushroom to fill the hole.
  5. Transfer to the oven and leave to cook until the mushrooms are sizzling at the tops of the filling are dry and slightly darkened.
  6. Remove and leave to cool before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I would recommend serving this dip in its many incarnations as a colourful and healthy appetiser platter. Why not call it a Sunshine Platter? My platter would offer some aubergine rolls, Provençale Mushroom Bites, and Sunshine Dip 3 Ways – one with added smoked Tabasco, one with added nutritional yeast, and one with some toasted sunflower seeds – alongside red, yellow, and green pepper slices and carrot sticks. Slices of toasted pita bread would be a nice addition too!

If you do wish to make the aubergine rolls (do it!), here’s how.

You’ll need:

1 large aubergine, sliced into slices 1/4″ thick and 5″ long
olive oil for cooking
salt
1/2 recipe Sunshine Dip

Method:

  1. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a grill pan over high heat.
  2. Lay aubergine slices out so that they don’t overlap (you’ll need to cook these in batches), and sprinkle the tops with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the slices begin to soften. Turn each slice over carefully with tongs, and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan, and repeat for remaining batches, adding a fresh teaspoon of oil each time.
  4. Once the aubergine has cooled slightly, dollop about a teaspoon of the Sunshine Dip onto one end. Roll up gently so as not to squeeze the mixture out, and secure with a cocktail stick.
  5. Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.

The dip is so quick to make that you could easily make a double batch, make the mushrooms, grill and roll the aubergine while the mushrooms are cooking, and then chop up some veggies. I reckon you could serve up a stunning and plentiful platter in 40-45 minutes. Full of various vitamins and minerals and fibre and protein, no grains and plenty of healthy fats – so everybody’s happy. Whether it’s raining or sunny outside.

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