Aubergine gamelastra with a roasted pepper sauce, puy lentils and polenta croutons

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This was the first dish of mine that I really loved and felt was my own creation. It’s full of earthy, intense flavours balanced with the sunny lightness of red peppers, polenta and sundried tomatoes; and then, at the end of the day, it’s serene and comforting too. The name relates not to the ingredients, cooking style or nationality, but to the fact that I was thinking about the extraordinary first public airing of the Cork University’s Gamelan orchestra, for which we did some interpretations of Indonesian food. This dish has nothing to do with it other than that I know it wouldn’t have happened without it, if you know what I mean. The pepper sauce recipe has been around and will make enough for six or more, but it is hard to make less and it is almost certainly too delicious to last very long.

Ingredients

  • 4 small-medium aubergines
  • a little olive oil
  • 150 g kale
  • 70 g Stilton, crumbled
  • 2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 40 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp mustard, Dijon style
  • 30 mls single cream

For the Pepper Sauce

  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 200 mls light stock or water
  • 100 mls single cream
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp salt

Method

If you are serving the polenta croutons with this, you will need to make the polenta at least an hour before you need it, though you will only need about a third of the recipe.

Trim the ends of the aubergines and cut a thin slice off two sides to give a near full-length smooth edge, then cut each aubergine into two thick slices lengthways. If the aubergines seem too big, cut three slices from each one. The slices will need to be at least 15 mm thick. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil and roast them on a tray in a moderate to hot oven, until lightly browned.

Cook the kale by dropping it into boiling water for about three to five minutes, depending on its coarseness. Drain and rinse it immediately in cold water, pressing out as much water as possible. Chop it roughly and put it in a mixing bowl with the Stilton, sundried tomatoes and crumbs.

Gently cook the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until softened, then add the mustard and cream and bring to a quick boil before removing from the heat. Cool this a little before adding to the kale, with some chopped parsley and black pepper. Salt is probably not needed because of the Stilton.

To make the sauce, roast and peel the peppers, then put them in a small pan with the garlic and the water. Simmer these for five or six minutes, then blend to a fine puree. Return the puree to the pan with the cream and seasoning, bring it to the boil and simmer briskly for one minute, no more. The sauce will reheat easily if you make it in advance, though you may have to thin it a little first.

Take four of the aubergine slices and place a generous amount of the kale mixture gently on top of each, then put the other four slices on the kale. Press down gently.

The gamelastras are now ready to go back in the oven, for a further ten to fifteen minutes, so make sure everything else is ready before you go on. They will happily sit around for a little while. To finish the gamelastras, bake them at 350°F (Gas Mark 4) for ten to fifteen minutes. Just before serving, cut the cooled polenta into cubes of about 15 mm and fry them in a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy non-stick or well-seasoned pan until lightly browned and beginning to crisp, about six to eight minutes.

Serve one gamelastra per person, surrounded by a pool of pepper sauce, a pile of polenta croutons and some puy lentils.