Thursday, October 13, 2011
Barbecued Vegetable Salad
Autumn is peeking over the parapet and then ducking away in London at the moment. We have cool grey days and, soon as the cardies are definitely out of the closet, the high cloud dissipates, the sun shines down and the cardigan is redundant once more. At leastun til the next day. Hot enough for sleeveless tops and flip flops one day it's coats and boots a few days later but either way it's clear that summer is gone. Pffff.
To treat ourselves to a small extension of the pleasures of blue skies and clear seas and lovely hot sunshine the man and I have been to Corsica, an extremely attractive island off the coast of France. There is a tiny frill of coast around the edges and all the rest is mountains rising steeply, scrubby green and criss crossed with madly winding roads, hairpin bends and stunning views. It is a wonderful place to catch the end of summer.
The local produce is wonderful. I didn't know the Corsicans are such extraordinary producers of charcuterie, exquisite pork products like the lonzu we bought on the first night, a lightly smoked pork loin that was delicate in both texture and taste. It came from a little village grocery where we also bought blood sausage and some wonderful sheep's cheese which made for a perfect supper on arrival. The local wine of Patrimonio was a good match.
Getting up to sunshine we found the barbecue in the garden, after we'd found the pool and the dining table on the stone flagged terrace. I am a woman who loves barbecue and don't indulge that love with anything like sufficient frequency. Most nights we ate at home. I couldn't resist the lovely vegetables - fat red slices of tomato on baguette for breakfast followed by generous chunks of sweetest canteloup melon, glossy aubergine, bulbous peppers and seriously pale courgettes cooked on the barbecue at night, dressed in nothing more than the local olive oil scented with the basil that came in huge fragrant bunches in every shop it sums up the pleasure of doing not much in a foreign land.
For those out there who are lucky enough to have summer on its way, here is a simple salad for the barbecue, and for those, like me who have a long time to wait till it's a good menu option it's something to keep us warm through the autumn.
Barbecued Vegetable Salad
100ml olive oil
Leaves from a bunch of basil
1 clove garlic, peeled but left whole
1 large aubergine
2 medium courgettes
1 tablespoon salt
2 red peppers
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to season
In a small pan warm the olive oil, basil leaves and garlic clove on a low heat till small bubbles appear in the oil. Turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool.
Slice the aubergine and peppers lengthwise into strips the thickness of a pound coin, put them into a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to drain for half an hour or so, then pat the vegetables dry with kitchen paper.
Put the vegetable strips onto a plate and brush with a little of the basil oil. Halve the red peppers and coat with a little more of the oil.
After the barbecue has been lit and burned for a while, about the point where the flames are just calming down and the charcoal is beginning to be a little ashy, lay the vegetables onto the griddle. Watch carefully, they will cook quickly, and turn them as they start to char, no more than a couple of minutes. When both sides are nicely charred take the vegetables off the fire onto a chopping board.
As soon as they are cool enough to touch, roughly dice everything and tip into a bowl. Gently stir through a couple of tablespoons of the basil oil, lift with a generous squeeze of lemon and season.
Let the salad cool a little while the meat cooks and serve with a glass of wine all the better to watch a glorious sunset.