Casarecce with Spicy Aubergine

I reckon Seasoned Pioneers make the best ras al hanout, the Moroccan spice mix crucial for tagine and useful for other dishes too. It brought a haunting spicy heat to this lovely stew of buttery aubergine with slippery soft red onion, sweet-sour tomatoes and salty green olives. Serve it piled over cous cous with a spoonful of creamy yoghurt or chose a short pasta like casarecce for a less Moroccan-style interpretation. The pasta is mixed into the sauce and everything slips down very nicely.

Serves 2
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 30 min

2 aubergine, approx 250g each
1 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic
2 tomatoes
2 tsp ras al hanout
150ml veg or chicken stock (cube is fine)
12 green pitted olives
200g dried casarecce pasta

Quarter the trimmed aubergine lengthways and halve each piece lengthways and slice across to make kebab-size chunks. Dissolve 2 tbsp salt in a bowl of water and use a saucepan lid to keep the pieces immersed. Leave while you do other preparations. While the aubergine soaks, halve, peel and finely dice the onion and soften gently in a spacious, lidded pan in 2 tbsp olive oil. Boil the kettle. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Count to 40. Drain, remove the skin and dice. Chop the garlic and stir into the onion. Cook for a few minutes, then, off the heat, scoop the contents of the pan into a sieve held over the pan, pressing down to extract maximum oil. Rinse, drain and pat the aubergine dry with kitchen paper. Return the pan to the heat and add the aubergine. Cook, stirring regularly, adjusting the heat so the aubergine cooks evenly, eventually giving back the oil it sucks up and turning glossy and shrunken. Return the onion, stir well then stir in the ras al hanout. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes then add the tomato and 5 minutes later, the stock. Simmer gently while you halve the olives round their middles and add them to the pan. Now cook the pasta in salted boiling water from the kettle. When al dente, drain and stir into the pasta. That’s it folks.