Don’t let the word caviar fool you: there’s not a fish egg to be found in this vegan recipe I learned while road tripping through France and Spain this summer. One of my stopping points was Kate Hill’s place at Camont (aka Kitchen at Camont) in Gascony where I spent a life-changing weekend last summer on a food photography workshop with Kate and Tim Clinch. This time, the visit was more of a social call, a reunion if you will with Kate and Mardi, and since the focus wasn’t on food photography, I was actually able to participate more in the food itself.
One of the highlights was this aubergine caviar, which is sort of like a Gascon twist on the Moutabel I wrote about a few weeks ago. Kate recently published the recipe in her latest “Basix” eBook of Summer Recipes from Gascony, but as Kate explains, it’s so simple that you don’t need a strict recipe at all.
To make the aubergine caviar, Kate grilled a large aubergine until it was blackened on all sides and soft in the middle (you can achieve this by roasting the aubergine in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes). After the aubergine cooled, Kate peeled and scooped out the flesh into a large bowl, added a couple cloves of minced garlic, a good squeeze of lemon juice, a good glug of olive oil, salt, pepper and – the Gascon moment – about half a cup of coarsely chopped pitted black olives.
Kate served the aubergine caviar on toasted bread, like a bruschetta (or “tartine” – this is France, after all) for a marvellously simple lunch, alongside fresh picked salad leaves from her garden.
It’s a hallmark of much of Kate’s cooking, and Gascon cuisine in general: use really good ingredients, cook them simply and – most importantly – taste your food. Pay attention to flavours. Does it need more lemon? Salt? And don’t be afraid to experiment – you could try adding some anchovies to the caviar if you’d like.
When you take the time to source quality ingredients, cook it with care and eat it with deliberate attention to your senses, you can’t help but slow down and enjoy what’s on your plate. It’s the Gascon way! And another life-changing moment, aubergine style, courtesy of Kate, Camont and the land. Merci!
I travelled to Gascony by car from with Brittany Ferries (0871 244 1400; www.brittany-ferries.co.uk), sailing from Portsmouth to St. Malo.
Kate Hill is an author and professional cook who runs cookery classes, charcuterie workshops and road trips at Camont and in the Basque country (kitchen-at-camont.com).
More vegetarian French recipes can be found in Kate’s eBook: 6 Summer Recipes from Gascony.
This post also appeared on Great British Chefs.