A week of eating in motorway service stations, a broken down car, three garages and arriving in North Shields where we spent all the money saved from not getting an expensive train on repairing the car. On Monday, after the 7 hour journey north, I finally got to eat pies at The Low Lights tavern in North Shields on a quiet road just above the pungent working fish quay. The pub has precisely the feeling I like: scuffed, labyrinthine, unassuming, affordable, welcoming to all. It has a schedule of bring your own instrument sessions advertised on A4 posters too ❤ The pies (£8.95 including peas, beef dripping chips and homemade gravy) had exceptional crisp layered pastry and was well filled with mince and onions. It is the second best meal I have had in Newcastle. I drank a pint of 3.9% Low Lights beer with the pie, which was very good.
On Saturday, after more travelling and laying my head down in two further towns, I arrived home and collapsed on the sofa in a heap of sweat. My mind turned to deep frying, meaning comfort and luxury. First of all I thought about the bag of frozen cassava chips in our freezer, of frying them and eating them with mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha chilli sauce. However, I was bored of starchy chips. Instead, I cut aubergines into chip shapes as they do on the eastern side of Sicily and fried them and made a dish with tomato and pasta.
I turned initially to Mary Taylor Simeti‘s essential book of Sicilian Food and read her recipe for aubergine pasta, but I didn’t have most of the ingredients. However I took Simeti’s instruction for how to fry the aubergine. Elizabeth David and Claudia Roden didn’t have any suitable recipes. I made the below, using the handful of pasta we had left.
Frying the aubergines like this make this dish luxuriant and frankly, sexy.
2 smallish aubergines, cut into chip shapes
1 tin of tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
2 handfuls of pasta
oil for frying (I used 1 cup of paler cooking olive oil- not extra virgin – and 1 cup of rapeseed oil)
handful of basil
How to make:
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Heat up the oil in a pan and fry the aubergine chips in batches, removing when they are golden brown to a plate with kitchen roll to soak excess oil.
Meanwhile, boil generous amounts of salted water for the pasta (at least a litre), then cook pasta to al dente – slightly chewy.
Then, in an oven dish that can fit everything, make the tomato sauce by adding 5 tablespoons of good olive oil – extra virgin to the oven pan with the sliced garlic, heat up gently on the hob, and when the garlic is fragrant and frying, add the tomatoes, cook for 10 minutes and season with salt to taste. Add in the cooked pasta, fried aubergines and a handful of torn basil to the tomato sauce. Stir well and grate parmesan generously over the top to cover it. I chucked on a few cherry tomatoes I had that needed eating – this is not necessary.
Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Serve with a green salad.