(A Gujarati speciality from South Africa, from Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Bible )
In the ancestral ingredients pool were aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, Provencal herbs, olive oil, marscapone cheese, salt and pepper in a layered dish called Baked Provencal Vegetables, made by the initiator herself.
In February, onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, chilli flavoured oil, pesto and wholemeal wraps had been added to the original configuration, and Muireann replaced the marscapone and Provencal herbs with cream cheese and dried basil respectively.
Naomi introduced meat (minced beef) into the recipe, as well as crackers, egg, spinach leaves, soy cream, hazelnuts, mushhrooms, and a handful of mange-tout, while removing the aubergine and peppers, and replaced the wraps with Spaghetti, and the cream cheese with ricotta and quark for March's meatballs with spaghetti.
In April, the aubergines (1) made a come-back, while the courgettes dropped out, the beef was replaced by minced lamb, and a whole array of new ingredients were added: potatoes, mint, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, tomato puree, milk, flour, a bay leaf, and red wine for the Hunt family Moussaka by Laura. She also came up with the great term foovolution that I use in the title of this post.
Ricotta proved an ingredient well suited to the environment as it still features in May's recipe by Kira, who took the foovolution to another level: the ricotta went into Ricotta and Dill Bread (adapted from The Art of Handmade Bread by Dan Leopard), and the aubergine went into everything else, a Baba Ghanoush, Baked Aubergines with Coriander Yogurt Dressing, and Aubergine, Halloumi and Asparagus, with Lemon/Oil Dressing, all looking absolutely delicous, see for yourselves here.
New 'traits' to draw from in June were plenty: tahini, coriander, paprika, lemon, couscous, apricots, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, spring onions, natural yogurt, ginger, dry yeast, flour, bread flour, dill, halloumi, asparagus tips, chilli flakes, honey, whole grain mustard.
Now, evolution is the product of two opposing forces: processes that constantly introduce variation, and processes that make variants become more common or rare. Adaptations occur through a combination of successive, small, random changes in traits, and natural selection of the variants best-suited for their environment.
I have also learnt that natural selection has no long-term goal and does not necessarily produce greater complexity. In that vein, my main ingredients are the ones which have become the most common traits: aubergine, onion and tomato. From May, I will carry over coriander, lemon, ginger, and the yoghurt for an accompaniment. I will also draw on earlier variants for potatoes (new, in season, and therefore an environmental force), peppers and mint. And the nuts, which appeared earlier as hazelnuts and pine nuts make a come-back as peanuts and coconut. There will be no meat or cheese (the environmental force here could be the credit crunch, or it could be the more personal, domestic one of heart disease and diabetes in my family demanding less meat and dairy intake and an increase in the consumption of vegetables), and my spices and my flour will be Indian, because another environmental factor in this house is the fact that my son Ben will eat only vegetables which are heavily disguised or heavily curried.
Aku Shaak - Stuffed Vegetable Curry
You will need a large, deep frying pan for this.
6 small round aubergines, or chunky pieces as described above
4 tomatoes for stuffing
255 g tomatoes, grated (or tinned chopped tomatoes)
3 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthways
1 green pepper, cut into squares
for the paste:
4 tbsp chickpea flour (gram flour)
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, ground (I reckon you could just as well use smooth peanut butter and omit the tbsp of oil)
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp hot green chillies, finely chopped
2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp of jaggery or soft brown sugar
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp ground asafetida
4 whole dried, hot red chillies
- Put all the ingredients for the paste into a bowl, mix, and add 1 tbsp of oil and 1-2 tbsp of water to get a crumbly paste.
- Cut deep crosses in the bottom of the aubergines, or into the cut ends if using chunks. Stuff some of the paste into them. Cut crosses into the tomatoes and onions and also stuff them. Set aside the stuffing that's left.
- Fill the frying pan with oil to a depth of 1 1/2 mm and set on a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, asafetida and chillies when it's hot. A few seconds later, add the potatoes, stir for 30 seconds, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir from time to time.
- Carefully put the onions and aubergines into the pan, cut side up. Cover and continue to cook on medium heat for 7-8 minutes.
- Add 4 tbsp of water, move the vegetables about. Put the lid back on, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
- Move the vegetables around again, then add the tomatoes, and scatter the pepper pieces.
- Add the grated tomatoes to the stuffing you set aside, mix well and pour the mixture over the peppers. Cover and continue to cook for a further 20-25 minutes, until the tomatoes are just done.
Delicious and very filling, if you cook the above quantity and you're just 3! Mind you, it wouldn't be enough for 8 as a full meal.
And here for those who would like to contemplate evolution, natural selection and Darwin's role in this a bit more, a link to an essay in the New York Times: Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live