Time calls for a heavy salad when we expect warmth but still cannot shed our socks; when it’s summer time in name only.
If you have not tried boiling potatoes in their skins, allowing them to dry and then rubbing the skin off by hand while trying not to burn your fingers (hot potato!), try it out. First of all is the satisfaction of the continuously curved edge of a potato that has not been given flat edges by a peeler. It becomes an odd relation to a boiled egg: bald and steaming hot and smooth and pale, a weird and beautiful form. Second, is the generally improving effect on the potato itself. The flesh, even on a regular supermarket category ‘white’ potato acquires an richer, more waxen texture (not so granular and waterlogged) and the flavour seems to benefit too, acquiring a butteriness. Then there is the benefit of deep-frying aubergine, the cloud-like transformation of the interior and the caramelisation of the outside, all for the good.
On reflection, this dish would be improved by hard boiled eggs but I think I’d already had several poached on the day I made it for dinner.
For 2 or more
6 medium potatoes, 1 aubergine, 1 mild onion, capers/caperberries in brine, parsley, mint and basil, a tub of ricotta and/or 4 eggs, 1 lemon, olive oil, vegetable oil for frying
Boil 6 medium sized potatoes in their skins until tender: to do this, place the potatoes in plentiful cold water in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt. Turn on the heat and cook until tender (check by sticking in a knife – it should slide easily in and out – if in doubt cut one in half).
Meanwhile, cube an aubergine and deep fry in batches in a little saucepan in an inch of sunflower oil until golden brown. Wait until the oil is hot before frying, it should ‘fizz’ when you drop a cube of aubergine in. Put cooked pieces on kitchen paper to drain the oil.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them, allow to dry and as soon as you dare (without burning your fingers) peel off the skin. Cut the cooked potato into cubes of similar sizes to the aubergine, perhaps a little larger.
Finely dice 1 small onion, or half a larger one and squeeze lemon juice over it and a little salt – to take some of the bit out of the onion.
On a large serving plate or bowl, place the cooked aubergine and potato, season with some salt and pepper. Add the onion. In a bowl add a small chopped up bunch of parsley, mint and basil, a few chopped up capers or caperberries, a tablespoon of caper brine, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, juice of half a lemon and mix with a fork. Pour over the potatoes, aubergine and onion.
Garnish with tablespoons of ricotta and/or hardboiled eggs.