Sunday, January 14

Aubergine pancakes with saffron salmon and endive

This recipe is by the forefather of culinary alchemy, the late Michael Roberts, who is credited for being the man responsible for liberating the southern Californian foodies from duck a l’orange and such like in the early 80s and starting the Californian culinary revolution. At his West Hollywood restaurant Trumps (1980-1992), he created what at the time seemed to be outrageous dishes, combining ingredients no one would have thought to bring together before. Lobster in vanilla sauce, fried plantains with caviar and quesadilla with brie and grapes all featured on the menu and with these he paved the way for the experimental fusion cuisine California later became famous for.

This is perhaps not the most outrageous of his recipes, but it does contain two of my very favourite ingredients, saffron and aubergine. And it’s a great dish when you want to impress; it’s unusual, delicious and very quick and easy to make (apart from the pancakes which take a bit of time, but they can be made in advance).

Serves 4

For the pancakes
1 large aubergine (about 550 g)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ small red onion, minced
75 ml flour
½ tsp baking powder
3 eggs
90 ml stock
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter

For the sauce:
100 ml dry white wine
100 ml whipping cream
a generous pinch of saffron filaments
1 tsp salt
450 g skinless salmon fillets, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped into small cubes (about ½ cm)
12-16 belgian endive leaves

Preheat oven to 175c
To make the pancakes pierce the skin of the aubergine using a fork and then bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, turning occasionally until the skin has become wrinkly and the aubergine is soft. Scoop out the flesh and using a handheld blender puree the aubergine until smooth. While the aubergine is baking sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Don’t let it burn or go brown. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, pepper and baking powder; add the aubergine puree, onion and garlic mixture and eggs to the flour and mix well. Stir in the stock.

Melt ½ tbsp in a skillet over medium heat, taking care not to let it burn. Drop soup spoons of batter onto skillet and cook until the surface begins to dry – about three minutes. Flip pancakes over and cook for another 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter adding butter as needed. As pancakes are done, transfer them to a baking sheet kept in a 110c oven to keep warm.

To make the sauce combine the wine with the saffron and the salt in a skillet. Bring to the boil over high heat and cook for two minutes. Add the cream and cook until liquid has reduced and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the salmon and sweet red pepper and cover. Cook for another minute or two until done.

To serve, arrange a few endive leaves on top of each warm plate, put the pancakes on top and pour the sauce over.

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