Parenthesis: I came home via Marks and Sparks to get the ingredients. An elderly woman was scanning the newspapers on the display in the entrance. ‘E can bloody piss off an all,’ she snarled. Well, one was somewhat taken aback; was it perhaps one’s duty to alert the manager? This was hardly the kind of language one expects in Marks and Spencer’s, after all. Tesco, madam, is only two minutes from here and your sort are probably more common there. ‘Thy kin bloody piss off, the lot of ‘em, what they're doing to people,’ she went on. With her walking stick she indicated a mug-shot of David Cameron on the front page of the Mail. So we had a brief chunter together about what a posh southern twat he is, and how we’d neither of us ever vote for the bugger, and then I went off to get the briam together. You need:
A couple of courgettes
A red pepper
A green pepper
Some open-leaf parsley
Some olive oil. Rather a lot, in fact.
A teaspoon or so of tomato puree
Thyme or oregano
Salt and pepper
Most Greek cooks would put in an aubergine, but the charm of aubergines is lost on me, hence their absence here. Chop the lot and sling it in a casserole. Add okra if you must - or add slugs, the effect will be the same. Anoint with the herbs, oil and tomato puree, and season. I had some cherry tomatoes in the fridge that were just this side of usable, so they went in as well. Heat the oven to something suitable, put the uncovered casserole in and then go and do something else for half an hour or so. Some people I know prefer to make this on the hob rather than in the oven, which is entirely their business, of course, but I always get a feeling of virtuousness doing it my way. The aroma of peppers, onions and garlic wafting on the air always seems stronger and sweeter when it’s issuing from the oven. It’s ready when all the vegetables are just tender. Since briam is something akin to ratatouille, I did consider staggering the cooking time as you do with the Frog dish, starting the onion and root veg first, then the tomatoes, and the peppers and courgettes last. If you were coming to dinner, I might have, but since you aren’t, sod it. (I lived to regret this decision.)
In Greece you’d eat your briam at room temperature, served with bread and probably some cubes of cheese on a side dish. That’s what I’m going to do tonight. I have some excellent wholemeal bread, paid for trans-nasally at the ever-so-ever-so artisan bakery place up the road, and some Red Leicester. No feta, unfortunately, as Marks and Sparks were out. Speaking of feta, I mind of watching Jamie Oliver on Greek TV. He was doing something typically Jameyish with his feta – strewing it with chillies, lemon zest, herbs and greenery, probably – and he remarked that ‘feta’s not considered a particularly classy cheese’. Which word in that phrase did not make it into the Greek subtitles? Answers on a post-card, please.
I'm going to make another one tomorrow, and this time I will stagger the cooking time and I won't forget the fucking salt.
P.S. The second attempt was much better - cooked root veg and onions first, then added the softer veg and baked without covering the casserole. Took it out just as the edges of the vegetables on top were beginning to brown slightly.