Party on a plate


GRIDDLED GOODNESS Aubergine and peppers are delicious when seared on the griddle.

Redmond Cabot

Caring food producers (farmers and fishermen included) are simply not fairly remunerated for the efforts they show in producing their goods. Frequently, the end customer makes their choices based on price not quality. Local economies are often swamped with cheaper goods from economies with lower labour costs. This is the ugly face of global food production.
In Ireland, for some reason unknown to me, we have a remarkably active and diverse small food producer’s economy that successfully co-exists alongside the global brands. All we can do as consumers is support as best we can our local food producers and continue to ask questions of our shopkeepers if they sell produce that hurts our own producers.

Ratatouille salad
I am currently away in the former Yugoslavia, celebrating my auntie’s 85th birthday (happy birthday Gilly!). The big family gathering is on Saturday, and all the products for the feast are sourced locally and top quality.
A local friend is cooking wild boar stew, as well as an octopus dish. I am helping with the rest. We are boiling up potatoes in saltwater and mint, served with bowls of sour cream and chives. Three salads – local lettuce, red onion and vinaigrette; feta cheese, black olives and cucumber; and fried courgette in garlic, ripe tomatoes, roasted peppers with fresh herbs.
The idea, as in all party catering, is to have one or two stand-out dishes, and then ‘pad out’ the rest with relatively affordable and tasty add-ons, such as the salads. Here is the recipe for the last of the three salads I’m preparing; I love eating fried courgette and aubergine mixed in with a salad on a warm day, and this colourful dish is just perfect for a party.

What you require:
> Around 400g small courgettes, sliced
> 3 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
> 2 bell peppers
> 400g fresh cherry tomatoes halved (or riper bigger ones sliced)
> 100g tinned tomatoes
> 1 aubergine sliced
> Bunch of fresh herbs
> Good glug of olive oil
> 1 x tsp sherry vinegar
> Cheese of your choice to garnish if you like  
> Seasoning

What you do
Place a griddle pan over a medium heat, then fry the courgettes (leaving out a handful uncooked for later) and garlic long enough to get the courgette sides brown and ‘shrinkly’, and remove them from the pan. Turn up the heat and cook the washed peppers and sliced aubergine until they are charred, then remove and place in a bowl covered with cling film.
In a salad bowl, combine cooked courgette and tinned tomatoes and add vinegar and drizzle with oil. Remove the skin from the peppers and tear the flesh into strips, then add the strips to and the aubergine to the courgettes and tomatoes, and mix well. Finally add the fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs and leftover uncooked courgette and the cheese.
The result is a delicious mix-match of delicious, fresh, cooked and grilled food that tickles the taste buds while you load up with spuds and stew!

> Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.