450 gm aubergine
450 gm courgette
450 gm each of red and yellow peppers
1 x juice of 2 lemons
2 clv garlic peeled and crushed in a little sea salt
1 handful fresh basil or marjoram
To prepare the peppers, roast them whole under a grill, on a barbecue or on a gas hob until the skins are burnt black all over - turning as necessary. As they are finished pop them into a plastic carrier bag. Once they are all done, tie of the top of the bag and let the peppers sweat for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the bag and cut in half. The charred skins should be easy to remove with a knife. Clean off the skins and seeds and use the beautiful soft flesh in this recipe.
Cut the aubergine lengthways into eighths and place in a colander with some sea salt. Cut the courgette lengthways into sixths or eighths depending on size, add some salt, and place in a separate colander. Leave both to drain of any bitter juices, for a minimum of 30 minutes. Rinse and dry well.
Break the skinned peppers into sixths, and place on a dish.
Place the aubergine and zucchini pieces on the hottest part of the grill and grill on both sides, seasoning at the same time with salt and pepper.The aubergine in particular requires care - it needs to be cooked, but should not burn. To test, gently press with a finger; if it resists, it is not done. When cooked, keep separate with the zucchini.
Mix olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, and pour over the individual vegetables, gently lifting to coat them. Combine all the seasoned vegetables in a large bowl with the basil leaves, turn over once, and taste for seasoning - it should be robust.
I have banged on about the River Cafe elsewhere on this blog, so I will let it go - save to mention that it is one of the best restaurants I know of and one where you should NEVER turn down an opportunity or (especially) an invitation to eat there. The food is gorgeous. It is essentially Italian home cooking elevated to heights by ruthless selection of quality ingredients and attention to detail in the cooking. It costs a lot too - but fortunately they have produced a number of cook books and while famously their methods tend to be a little on the opaque side (if not actually wrong, as this one was) they are worth perseverance and you can make at home food which bares enough of a resemblance to their original so as to be remarkable.
Their quantities also seem a bit extravagant at times too, but again I guess that is the point. As here a simple dish of vegetables the point is to celebrate the vegetables and to do it at a time of year where they are plentiful and flavourful - and therefore cheap. Simple ingredients, elevated by careful cooking (designed to reduce the water in the aubergine and courgette to intensify the flavour) and a sympathetic but robust accompaniment.
Incidentally if like me you were wondering what "Graticola" is - its not the sauce, it is the method of cooking! Graticola is a ridged grill pan in which you can cook the vegetables according to the method to give those lovely stripes on them afterwards. I opted to use a barbecue to cook mine. You can use a graticola in a wood fired oven (as they do at River Cafe) if you have both....Or a griddle pan on a hob in the kitchen if thats what you have. Again, don't use excuses....