By Isabelle Blakeney, Third Year English and History and Oscar Ross, Music Editor
The Croft Magazine// As Spring taunts its approach, joy seems ready to burst at the seams. The air is crisp, the afternoons are becoming stoically sunny and flowers are announcing themselves once again. With all this in mind, regular writer Isabelle brings a recipe reminiscent of Italian summers, while Music Editor Oscar supplies the perfect soundtrack to keep those Winter blues back in January.
When I think of joy, I think of sun, and when I think of sun, I think of Italy (so middle class, am I right?). I spent last summer ‘working’ on a kids camp in Italy- I put ‘working’ in inverted commas because playing volley ball and sunbathing can hardly be considered the most strenuous labour. As you can imagine, the food was definitely a highlight. An on-site chef, breakfast, lunch and dinner, six days a week! In Italy! And I was being paid for this?!
The food was all delicious of course, but one of my favourite dishes was the fried aubergine served with lemony spinach. I started cooking it back in Bristol in my bouts of reminiscence (woe is me) and it works as the perfect indulgent, comforting snack.
So, this dish is the result of me trying to satisfy my cravings for comfort food whilst incorporating some actual cooking and sliding an extra vegetable or two into my diet. These burgers are a veggie, Italian, fresh take on the classic hamburger. They’re impressive, but only take about twenty minutes to make. The aubergine is the star of the show here- they melt in the middle and have the perfect crunchy crust- but most other ingredients can be swapped out if you don’t have the ingredients or you want to make them your own.
Ingredients (makes two burgers):
For the aubergine:
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp mixed herbs/ any dried green or Italian herbs that you can have (I used rosemary and oregano)
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to top up)
50g fresh mozzarella
For the assembly:
2 brioche buns
Mayonnaise (I added dried dill to make a VERY basic tartare sauce)
½ red onion, sliced into rings
Baby gem lettuce
1 sliced tomato
A few pickles
Or whatever you like in your burgers!
- First, get started on the aubergine. In three separate bowls prepare the flour, egg, and breadcrumb mixture. In the first bowl add the cayenne pepper to the flour and mix until combined, whisk your egg thoroughly in the second bowl, and in the third combine your breadcrumbs, parmesan, dried herbs, and salt.
- Slice the aubergine into circles roughly 1cm thick. Dip each one in the flour, then into egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, ensuring that the aubergine is fully coated each time. Place on a plate and repeat until they’re all ready.
- Put a frying pan on a medium/high heat with roughly four tablespoons of oil, ensuring the base is fully covered. The aubergine soaks up oil quickly so you may need to top it up. Once the oil is very hot begin frying the aubergine. Place as many pieces of aubergine in the pan as will fit on the base (you may have to do a few batches) and fry for about four minutes on each side, until the exterior is golden brown. About three minutes into the second side, add your mozzarella to the top and allow it to melt slightly.
- Whilst the aubergine is cooking, put your brioche buns under the grill to toast lightly and chop your vegetables.
- Once everything is cooked, it’s assembly time! It’s up to you how you do this, but I like to start with a layer of mayonnaise followed by lettuce, then stacking the aubergine on top. Top it off with the rest of your veg and close it up with the top of the bun. You might have some fried aubergine leftover- I eat them like chips with ketchup or mayonnaise. They’re seriously more-ish and make for a great side.
I am a simple person really. For me, joy is some good food and good soulful music. This month’s plate and playlist has got both, so enjoy!
Featured image: Isabelle Blakeney
What dish brings you the most joy?