I love preserving, but the conditions have to be right. It usually happens during a lazy (or rainy) weekend afternoon I find. I think it's because of the delayed reward - when I cook in the week it's because I want to scoff the food. But preserving's a different game altogether. You have to do it all for love and not, initially, for taste. Make the food, put it in a dark drawer and forget about it for a while. I've still not tasted my hot and sweet plum chutney, although I did cave in and eat the green bean chutney pretty soon after making and jolly nice it was too. I found that even a week or two rounded out the vinegar and gave it a gentler and more complex flavour.
The idea for this pickle was pretty simple - make some fish-fragrant aubergines as normal but ramp up the vinegar and sugar in them to levels that preserve the vegetables and allow them to mellow and mature over the course of a few weeks.
- two big aubergines or equivalent small Asian ones
- a pepper
- a bunch of spring onions
- plenty of chopped garlic and ginger, sugar, chilli broad-bean paste, Chinkiang vinegar, malt vinegar, soy sauce
Chop the aubergine into medium sized chunks. I thought a pepper would be nice to provide a spot of colour - if you decided to include this chop it into similarly sized pieces.
Fry the veg in some oil for seven or ten minutes until it becomes soft. Set to one side.
Chop the garlic and ginger and fry with the chilli bean paste and chopped spring onions for a minute or two until fragrant. I use this Pixian bean paste (川老汇郫县豆瓣) which is 30% broad-beans (more than some others I have seen) and quite rough and thick (and delicious).
Add the soy sauce, some sugar (maybe four or five tablespoons), quite a few good shakes of each vinegar and some water. You need a little liquid. Reintroduce the aubergine and pepper and cook everything together for five minutes.
When it looks nice and jammy spoon the mixture into sterile jam jars. Some people suggest putting the jars in the oven but I've always found it quicker to have them in a bubbling pot of water on a slow boil.
This amount makes about four jam jars' worth of pickle. Dunno what it's going to taste like: might be horrible. But I like the idea of it. All you'd need is some rice, stir-fried veg and a bit of this pickle. I'll keep you posted.