I have finally got a kitchen! Well, sort of – it’s still full of crap and dust – I have a cooker, a sink and a working fridge, that’s the main thing… And since I ate waaay too much brie at work today, I decided to have a lovely, light, healthy dinner. It also felt kind of appropriate to eat something clean and nutritious to symbolise the new life I plan to have here – a dinner that would be the start of things to come… so I decided on this aubergine dish that my veggie friend, Lou Lou, told me about when I went to see her in Oxford in the summer. It’s last chance saloon now when it comes to aubergines, so you gotta make the most of them. To carry on with the symbolic tone of tonight’s dinner, I added the (one and only) tomato I found in my garden to the sauce – you can either ignore this or add more fresh tomatoes, it’s up to you. I amended the dish slightly by adding spinach and fresh chillies that a mate from work, Mars, brought in from his garden


Ingredients

3 large aubergines or 4 medium ones
1 litre tomato passata (you can replace some of this with fresh tomatoes)
Large handful fresh basil leaves
2 very strong red chillies (or 3 normal ones)
3 large garlic cloves
1 260g bag of spinach
80-100g parmesan shavings
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper


Most people salt the aubergines to get rid of the water for about half an hour, but what I like to do is to stick them straight on the stove (pierced a couple of times with a fork), in order to give them a charcoaled flavour. I do this for about 2-3 minutes on every side, and on a medium-high heat. I also wash the spinach and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it. For the sauce, fry the garlic and chillies in half the olive oil for a couple of minutes before adding the passata and chopped basil leaves, as well as the seasoning and balsamic. The sauce needs to simmer for about 10 minutes. In that time, chop the aubergines and layer in a greased baking tray (use the remainder of the oil for this), followed by the spinach, and then another layer of aubergines. I ran out of aubergine slices near the end of my second layer. One of my aubergines was too teeny, as you can see up there, that’s why you need three large ones, as I specified in the ingredients list. Finally, pour the sauce over the whole lot, and spread the parmesan shavings on top. This goes in the oven (180 degrees C) for about half an hour. This makes four massive portions, three medium ones, or two small uns


OK, so it’s not the most photogenic meal I have ever made, but I was stupidly excited to cook it – I may or may not have done a victory dance around my living room. The thing is,  I really feel that not having a kitchen psychologically destabilized me in some way. There are other things that I haven’t been able to do during the renovations – such as my collages (no space) or pilates (everything covered in dust) – but cooking is the one thing that makes me feel more connected to the world than anything else, so not cooking has been making me feel ungrounded and miserable. I don’t think that I ever appreciated how much I love eating homemade food and having friends round for dinner before. Though the friends’ bit is still a long way off. Baby steps, Scuzie, baby steps