Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ / … all about the aubergines

4 01 2013

Thoughts for the day:

DavidAttenborough460“Our planet, the Earth, is, as far as we know, unique, in the Universe – it contains life.”

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”

Sir-David-Attenborough-001“I mean, it is an extraordinary thing that a large population of your country and my country, of the citizens, never see a wild creature from dawn ‘til dusk, unless it’s a pigeon, which isn’t really wild, which might come and settle near them.”

Sir David Attenborough (British naturalist and broadcaster)

Sir David, he of the ‘Living Planet’, is himself a living legend. Seemingly tireless, after sixty years in the business, of bringing the natural world into our living rooms, on Wednesday night his latest, six part, BBC series, ‘Africa’  swept across our screens in glorious HD.

AfricaIt enjoyed jumbo viewing figures, 6.5 million tuning in for the first instalment – ‘The Kalahari’. I caught up with it last night.

Giraffe_2428794bHighlights included rare black rhinos, getting horny, by moonlight at a waterhole, and a pair of male giraffes knocking spots off each other, in a showdown, over a young female, of spaghetti western proportions. An altogether different take on ‘necking’.

The feet inside my Christmas slippers began to feel increasingly itchy as I slowly began to succumb to the call of the wild – I could feel another African safari coming on…

In an interview with ‘The Sun’ newspaper, the 86-year-old naturalist supposed, “I’m a bit of a fossil. They won’t make TV like this when I go.”  And he’s probably right, he usually is, programmes of this type could become extinct, so enjoy it while you can.      

While on the natural world theme, it is now official, 2011 has been confirmed as the UK’s second wettest year on record, at more than 25% above the annual average rainfall. For England it was actually the wettest year ever, with the south-west hardest hit.

20130101_15According to Met Office, four of the five wettest years on record have occurred this century, i.e. in the last twelve years, and there is a definite trend towards extreme downpours, which last year devastated harvests and resulted in flood damage to more than 8,000 homes and businesses.

Much of ‘the Shire’ has been under water since well before Christmas but there were signs today, as I took a back-roads detour to Malvern, that the floods are beginning to recede –  but just a little.

20130101_33Upton has enjoyed its annual five seconds of fame this week, with local publican Grahame Bunn, formerly of the riverside ‘King’s Head’ pub but now the new owner of the ‘The Anchor Inn’, a mere hundred yards up the road, extolling the virtues of our wonderful new flood defence, on Radio Five Live. The encroaching waters of the Severn have been kept at bay, enabling businesses, that in previous years would have been submerged, to continue trading. Most of them happen to be pubs – perversely, happy to remain ‘dry’ on this occasion!

On New Year’s Day, the defensive wall, a permanent feature topped with glass – so as not to obscure the views, proved quite an attraction, as promenading visitors marvelled at its construction and effectiveness.

NCI_03Today’s circuitous route to Malvern ‘Waitrose’ was all about the aubergines – an exotic delicacy conspicuous by its absence from Upton Spar or Co-op. In a moment of weakness I’d volunteered to cook the evening meal and was promptly handed Antonio Carluccio’s ‘Collection’. That’s what comes of giving your nearest and dearest a useful present, such as a cookery book, for Christmas!

carluccioI opted for a version of Caponata Siciliana – a Sicilian stew, which ‘the greedy Italian’ describes as ‘versatile, delicious, and easy to make… probably Sicily’s best known dish … hints of the French ratatouille… some Arabic influences too.’        

To feed 4 people you will need:

  • 800g aubergine – cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper – deseeded & chopped
  • 1 stick of celery – chopped
  • 1 tbsp salted capers
  • 20 or so pitted black olives – sliced
  • 1tbsp raisins
  • 1tbsp pine kernels
  • A handful of fresh basil – roughly torn
  • Salt and pepper

And this is what you do – well what I did…

  1. the-collectionFry the onion, in olive oil, in a large pan – for a few minutes, to soften
  2. Add the aubergine and fry until soft – about 10/15 minutes
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, except the pine kernels and basil, and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until everything is melted together
  4. Stir in the pine kernels and scatter torn basil on the top.
  5. Serve in bowls with chunks of rustic bread.

Buon Appetito!

A nice glass of red would have been the perfect accompaniment – 27 days to go and counting…

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