Pebronata aux aubergines









Miniature veg

Resisting a picturesque vegetable display abundant with the best of summer’s crop is not something I am particularly known for – I usually can’t control myself and buy ways too many things (some might say). With two (rapidly growing) babies to carry three flights of stairs in their car seats (mine seem to be made from lead) I am trading market chatter and instant gratification for a weekly organic box delivery. Though there are moments when I cave in and these tempting finger-sized aubergines were just too pretty and just the right size for a vegetable Pebronata. A hearty stew lingering between summer and autumn: the vegetable sauce is perfumed with herbs & resiny juniper berries reminding me of walks in the hills of the southern Provence and Côte d’Azur where the sun dried air is full of earthy, wild herb scents while a strong red wine pushes the sauce towards more autumnal flavours.

Always assuming that Pebronata was a Provençal dish since seeing John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan facing butcher and customers discussing the finer details in Peter Mayles’s A Year in Provence: ‘Ça ne vas pas non, Felicieng, c’est quattre poivrons rouges et un poivron vert’ – ‘ Je dis, et je repete, quattre poivrons verts et un poivron rouge’… I was puzzled why I never came across it there but apparently the Pebronata sauce originally hails from Corsica and the aubergines replacing the customary pork is Anne Willan’s great idea. My favourite version.




Aubergine pebronata

Pebronata aux aubergines

Serves 6. Adapted from Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.


700g / 1½ lbs. small aubergines / eggplants (mine were the size of a large man’s thumb)
about 120ml / ½ cup olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.35kg / 3 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into strips or 4 small tins diced tomatoes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
2 red peppers, cut into narrow strips
1 green pepper, cut into narrow strips
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
250ml / 1 cup hearty red wine

Cut aubergines lengthwise into quarters and halve those for two-bites-sized pieces (about 5cm / 2 inches long). Sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Meanwhile make the sauce:

Pebronata sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sweat the onion until it is beginning to turn brown, ca. 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a scant minute before adding tomatoes with the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until you’ve got a coulis. Heat another 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole and sauté the peppers with juniper berries until softened (ca. 10 minutes). Season, pour the wine over the peppers, bring to a boil and reduce, simmering slowly, to roughly half the amount. Add the tomato coulis and continue cooking over low heat into a thick, rich sauce vegetable sauce (about 15-20 minutes).

Sauté aubergine pieces over medium heat in the remaining 60ml olive oil until they are browned on all sides. Best to do in two batches to ensure browning and avoid steaming the aubergines. Decant into the casserole with the pebronata sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the aubergine pieces are tender. Season again if necessary and serve hot or at room temperature.



Deutsches Rezept:


Aubergine pebronata


6 Portionen. Nach Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.



700g kleine Auberginen (meine waren so groß wie der Daumen eines großen Mannes)
ca. 120ml Olivenöl
1 Zwiebel, gewürfelt
4 Knoblauchzehen, gehackt
1.35kg Tomaten, gehäutet, entkernt, in Streifen geschnitten oder 4 kleine Dosen Tomatenstücke
1 Bouquet garni (Thymian, Petersilie, Lorbeerblatt)
2 rote Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
1 grüne Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
4 Wacholderbeeren, leicht angedrückt
250ml kräftiger Rotwein

Auberginen der Länge nach vierteln, diese dann halbieren (ca. 5 cm lange Stücke). Großzügig salzen und 20 Minuten stehen lassen (um ihnen Flüssigkeit zu entziehen). Dann abspülen und mit Küchentüchern abtrocknen. In der Zwischenzeit die Sauce kochen:

Pebronata sauce: 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer Pfanne bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen und Zwiebel anschwitzen bis sie zu bräunen beginnt (ca. 5 Min.), dann Knoblauch hinzufügen und 1 Minute später ebenso die Tomaten und das Bouquet garni. Würzen und 15-20 Minuten simmern lassen bis man ein schönes Coulis hat (eingekochte stückige Tomaten/Sauce). Weitere 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer großen Kasserolle erhitzen und die Paprikastreifen mit den Wacholderbeeren sautieren bis sie weich sind aber noch ihre Form behalten (ca. 10 Minuten). Würzen, dann den Wein hinzufügen, zum Kochen bringen und dann langsam köchelnd bis auf die Hälfte reduzieren. Tomatencoulis hineingeben und weiter bei niedriger-mittlerer Hitze zu einer dicklich-stückigen Gemüsesauce einkochen (ca. 15-20 Minuten).

Währenddessen die abgespülten und abgetrockneten Auberginenstücke bei mittlerer Hitze im restlichen Olivenöl (60ml) sautieren bis sie auf allen Seiten angebräunt sind. Um ein Dämpfen der Auberginen zu vermeiden, dies am besten in zwei Portionen machen. Dann die angebräunten Stücke in die Kasserolle mit der Pebronatasauce geben, mit einem Deckel verschließen und für 10-15 Minuten köcheln lassen bis die Auberginen weich sind, aber nicht auseinanderfallen. Wenn nötig, nachwürzen und warm oder bei Zimmertemperatur servieren.




chicken & cheese empanadas

empanadas by the james kitchen
empanadas, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

When I buy a chicken for supper we always have a ton of leftovers and since it is a super french free range, Label rouge, grown up chicken, we want to use up every bit.

So, we might have a roast chicken to start with, the next day I will take it to pieces and save the bones and debris for stock (stash it in the freezer until there is a gathering of two or three carcasses to make a big batch of stock and there is the leisure time to do it). Then there is all the leftover meat and roughly a trillion things to use it for. Last time we made chicken & cheese empanadas baked in the oven (healthy baby) although we have freid them occasionally, too. The filling itself is savoury, garlicy, cheesy and crunchy – so tasty that you really have to stop yourself “testing” it all the time (for seasoning, of course, ähm, for seasoning, and what about the seasoning?). Check again for seasoning, if you must. The dough is so quick to make, although I find that it is hard to reuse the cut-offs since it gets unflexibile.Normally this amount of dough is enough for two greedy people and some lunch pickings for the next day or four reasonably behaved eaters.

Empanada dough

3 cups of all-purpose flour (type 405)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of ice-cold water

1 egg + 1 egg white (use the remaining egg yolk to glaze the pastry)

1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of cold butter, cut in cubes

Mix the eggs with the water and vinegar. Put the flour and salt into a food processor, add the butter pieces and blend with a few quick pulses. Add the wet ingredients and pulse again until a dough has just about come together. Of course, this could be made as well by hand or with a pastry blender. Knead the dough just a few times by hand to form a smooth ball and wrap the dough into cling film and cool for at least 1 hour. In the meantime, make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 180/200° C or 400° F. Roll out the dough about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick and cut out circles. Either larger or smaller circles depending on the size of your preferred empanada. We used a ravioli cutter with a diameter of 12 cm (4.5 inches) and got about 14 discs. Fill with about 1 heaped tablespoon of the chicken & cheese filling, close the empanadas, pressing the edges firmly together (if nobody gave you this handy gadget for Christmas, then use a fork to seal the pockets) and brush with the egg yolk (mixed with a dash of water). Bake for about 12 minutes. Depending on your empanada sizes adjust the timing. Of course, they could be fried in hot oil, too and will taste fabulous as well.

Chicken & cheese filling

left over chicken meat, chopped in pea size pieces

1 red onion, diced

1 red or yellow (bell) pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons of pickled jalapenos, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

salt, pepper, cayenne pepper or chili flakes

grated cheese ( I use 1/2 cheddar cheese and 1/2 middle-age gouda chesse), just about double the amount than chicken

Mix all the ingredients together, I like a little more cheese than chicken, but a fair amount of vegetables in the mixture. Generally I use what I have got and that has to do and usually is very tasty. Although I would keep these proportions as a guidance in mind. Adjust the seasoning, add more chili or jalapenos for more spice and maybe you will have to add some more cumin.

Dig in. So far we have never even tried a different filling. What is your favourite?