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3 July 2005

Yesterday was a deeply dreary day, bracketed by trouble: it started with a tax demand from the Revenue, where Iíd been expecting a rebate, and it ended with a major computer crash that left me rebuilding the hard drive by hand. God, but I want a new computer. And can't afford one, any more than I can afford to pay the Revenue. It's just a cock-up on their part, I truly don't owe them any money; trouble is, their demand will fall due before I can even hope to have the cock-up rectified, and there are terrible penalties for failing to pay up on demand, which I'm sure hold true even where the demand is in error. Yikes.

However, even the grimmest days have their saving graces; and as you know by now, when the going gets tough, the tough get cooking. It leads to tenderisation, with a little patience.

So I seem to have invented this whole new dish. In honesty, I suppose it's just a kind of spicy moussaka, and actually I'm sure people must have done it this way before, but I can't find a record. So for the moment, this is Chaz'z lamb and aubergine babotie:

Slice a medium/large aubergine into rounds, brush each round with olive oil and sizzle on a smoking griddle until crisply cooked. Butter an ovenproof dish, and cover the base with aubergine slices.

Meanwhile, slice a couple of onions and soften in butter and oil. Add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, then half a pound of minced lamb. Once thatís broken up and browned, add 4oz of grated carrot, and begin spicing: a couple of teaspoonsful of curry powder (I used madras) and ditto of ginger and herbes de provence, one teaspoon of ground coriander and ditto of turmeric, salt and pepper, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and ditto of sugar, a couple of dried red chillies and the zest of half a lemon. Cook these all together on a low heat until itís all integrated, maybe half an hour or so. Meanwhile, soak a couple of slices of bread in water. Once the mince is thoroughly cooked and all the flavours mingled, squeeze the bread dry, break it up and mix it in, then follow it with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar.

Cover the aubergines with a layer of mince, then another layer of aubergines, and so another layer of mince. Continue until all is used up and/or the dish is full.

Whisk together half a pint (in this country, thatís a 284ml carton - why donít they accept the inevitable, and go for 300ml? I do not know...) of buttermilk, two eggs and a couple of teaspoonsful of turmeric. Add salt and pepper, and pour over the meat & aubergine. Bake in a medium-low oven until the topping is set.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.