Here is the hastily captured recipe, in its dainty little book:
A word on stock. You need a proper chicken stock for this. This isn't just being idealistic. Most often I'll shrug about whether to use cheapo box tomatoes or fancy from-actual-Italy branded ones or handpeeled organic vine tomatoes from your own garden, of course the quality of ingredients makes a difference, but let's be realistic. And I don't fuss much about whether to use cheddar or parmesan, because parmesan is lovely, but we don't all ride unicorns across rainbows, or pat ourselves dry after baths with fresh kittens, and that would be lovely too.
BUT you do need proper chicken stock for this, which means homemade from actual chicken, so if you don't have any in the freezer already, you need to rewind and start off this recipe by having a lovely roast-chicken dinner. Not the worst hardship! And once you've had your delicious roast, here's how to make the stock.
Welcome back! The ingredient line-up - the 400ml frozen chicken stock is mysteriously out of shot, but it is there. In case you can't read my handwriting in the scribbled version, you will need...
2 large onions, eighthed longways; 1 large aubergine cut in 3/4-inch slices, quartered; 6 large sausages (or 480g or thereabouts of sausage generally); 8 cloves of garlic; 1 box or tin of tomatoes; 250ml of wine; 400ml of rich chicken stock; 1 cupful of black olives.
Turn the oven up to 150 C. Watch out: sometimes the oven looks back.
Random tip: onion skin is much easier to pull off if you start at the non-root end, after you've sliced it in half.
The onion cut into eighths, longways. Lustrous as ever.
Onion and garlic skins are mesmerisingly beautiful, especially in diffuse daylight. You can see more garlic-skin beauty at the end of this post, luminous as the scatterings of angel wings.
When you've finished rhapsodising over the contents of the offcuts bowl, strip and crush the garlic - don't forget the cheffy garlic trick.
A cup of olives turns out to be pricesly 125g. Cups are pleasing that way. But don't fret about actual grammage, just fill up a cup.
The prep assembled. I chopped half the olives in half, to let them mingle their flavour in the stew more, and kept the others whole, for additional interest. I suppose it depends how interesting you find a whole olive.
You DON'T need to bleed the aubergines for this: they're slightly more bitter if they're not bled, and for this recipe we want that bitter edge.
Slosh oil generously into the pan and turn it up to its highest - you're going to sear those onions, not gently mellowly fry them until they melt. We want scorch marks! Get your big oven stew pot out as well, ready to toss them into.
Onions looking nicely seared. Don't stir them too much when you're searing them - let them scorch on one side, then turn them over as best you can (a spatula is easier than a wooden spoon, for this) and scorch the other side.
Turn around - ooh! Suprise Chef Wine! Careful, mind, the stew takes 2.5 hours in the oven, so eek that chef wine out. Playing guitar will help, because you can't really sip while you're singing and strumming.
Chuck the scorched onions in the stew pot. Next up: the aubergines.
Again, we're going to scorch these babies, so the heat's still high. You may need to add more oil, but don't try give them as much as they want, they're greedy buggers and will drink up everything they get, and then later release it all into the stew and make everything too oily. Treat them with a firm hand.
Aubergines sorching up very nicely indeed, and we'll chuck them into the stew pot on top of the onions. Turn the heat DOWN because we don't want to scorch the sausages.
From this point, I'll keep telling you the right order, but you'll see from the pictures I did a slightly different order, because when I was photographing it, I was a bit distracted, and did the sausages after the onions, which threw everything else out, because the sausages make the pan sticky. So after the sausages, I had to do the garlic-tomato-stock stuff, to get the pan de-sticked, and then the aubergines. But do as I say, not as I did!
We're going to pretend the aubergines are just being added to scorched onion, and that flavourful gleaming sea of stew-juice is just your eager hallucination.
Make sure the pan has cooled a bit before the sausages go in, or they'll burst - turn it down, maybe take it off the heat for a minute or so. You want to brown the sausages all over, as best you can; I tend to be very mathematical about this and use tongs to get each quarter striped and try to line them up and get frustrated when they roll around, but you do it in whatever method you have devised.
They just need to be browned, not cooked through.
Add the browned sausages to the scorched onions and the aubergines (which are totally there already, you just can't see them because you're distracted by the sausages).
Sausages and bacon both leave a pan dreadfully sticky, which is a pain for whatever you're frying next, and a pain to scrub. Easy solution: fry something wet after it, and if there's nothing wet to go in this particular dish, go for the Patented Bacon-Pan Cleaning Marrow Method.
We've got the garlic, plus the nice wet tomato and stock to sort it out.
Flash-fry the garlic very quickly - that means, throw it in, hastily swirl it round to break up the clumps, and pretty much immediately throw in the box tomatoes.
Swirl it briskly, at it boils and bubbles - you want to stop the garlic frying, otherwise it's just hard little flakes, and not so succulent.
Add the stock: oh, look, it hasn't finished defrosting. No problem; the heat of the tomato juice will melt it readily enough, and I'll keep breaking it into chunks with my wooden spatula, to help that along.
When the stock's all melted and the mixture is hot, and beautiful and fragrant and already so full of promise for comforting homely stews on dark nights, pour it over the other ingredients in the stew pot.
Add your 250ml of wine, remember that you also have some wine, and take a sip of your own. Propose a toast to stew.
Throw in the olives, the whole and the halved, and put the whole lot in the oven for two and a half hours. Yes, two and a half hours. You have a glass of wine to hand, and guitar to play, and you could possibly do some stretching or lie on the floor and listen to an entire album, and in fact, any combination of the above. Two and a half hours is a marvellous and generous amount of time. For you and the stew.
When its allotted time is complete, the whole house smells marvellously and comfortingly of wonderful stew, and it looks like this. Last thing: grab a pair of scissors and cut the sausages into chunks, so they're more evenly distributed throughout the stew and the stew-liquid can seep into their warm sausagey interiors.
Lustrous, rich, gentle, soothing, with the fatty heaviness of the sausage perfectly offset by the slight bitterness of the olives and aubergines, and everything in the soothing richness of the chicken stock.
Ladle up a bowlful, I can't think what sides would possibly go with this (a mash would make it all too heavy, to my mind) and it does just beautifully on its own. And when you taste the liquid, you'll cry a little with pleasure, and understand why I was so very insistent about proper stock.