I’m Not Letting Go of Summer Yet and No-one Can Make Me!


It’s been a  long time since I posted a Caper Tree blog and I must apologise for my prolonged absence.  The reason I’ve been away for so long is that I broke my right wrist rather badly and after an operation to repair it, the poor thing has been stuck in a cast for two months.  Unfortunately, my chopping hand is attached to the wrist I broke and it’s been impossible to pick up a knife and use it. I did try chopping an onion by bashing it to death with a wooden spoon but it really didn’t have the same effect and my kitchen ceiling still has bit of onion carnage stuck to it. My kitchen was most displeased with me.

So now on the road to recovery and plaster cast-free, I decided earlier this week to cheer my kitchen (and myself) up by making my first tentative steps into making some properly delicious food. To my delight, I came up with a rather lovely dish which my wife also appreciated by whisking it away from me as soon as I finished taking the photos and claiming it as her dinner. It was the last I ever saw of it but at least I have the pictures and memories to remind me of what I once loved and lost.

Seasonally speaking, I suppose I feel a little behind everyone else at the moment. I feel I didn’t get the chance to really see out the summer by cooking the last of those light, fresh and sunny dishes which taste all the better when eaten outside with a nice glass of wine and watching the sun set in the distance. Now it’s dark before 5pm and we’ve moved  into Casserole, Stew and root vegetable territory, but as my brain is still stuck in September, I’m going to cling on to the Summer by my fingernails and present to you this wonderful ‘Chargrilled Vegetable and Avocado Club Sandwich’. It’s packed full of flavour and has that slightly barbequed taste which makes me want to pack a suitcase and fly off to the nearest Australian beach party.  Strictly speaking, the vegetables are not chargrilled – I use a device called a skillet which is basically a frying pan with raised ridges on it which the food sits on. When you brush the pan and the food with oil and sprinkle on salt, it gives this wonderful smoky flavour and brings out the very best in the food you’re cooking. Skillets are relatively inexpensive, ranging from £13 upwards and if you don’t own one, I strongly recommend you get one. They are extremely versatile and you can cook almost anything on it.  It’s also a healthier method than frying as the food doesn’t sit in the pan covered in oil. Alternatively you can cook the vegetables under a medium grill, brushing them occasionally with oil.  It won’t have the same intensity of flavour but it will still taste great.

OK, so if like me, you want to ignore the fact the clocks have gone back and that Christmas is staring you in the face, then why don’t you try this:

Chargrilled Vegetable and Avocado Club Sandwich

If you can make the flavoured oil a day in advance, you will get a better result. If you don’t have the time, at least make it 20 minutes before you use it.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (if you don’t make the oil the day before)

Serves: 2

You will need:

1 Skillet

1 Pastry or oil brush

Tongs (preferably) or a slotted slice


For the Flavoured Oil –

4 tbsp             Olive Oil

2 tbsp              Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1                      Bayleaf

2 cloves           Garlic – peeled and sliced

Handful           Fresh Oregano or Marjoram – roughly chopped (or use 1tsp dried if fresh                          is unavailable)

Handful           Fresh Sage roughly chopped (or use 1tsp dried if fresh is unavailable)

1 tsp                Salt

Sprinkle           Black Pepper

Everything Else –

3 Slices            Really nice fresh bread -  As long as it’s soft and square, you choose.

1                      Aubergine – sliced lengthways into strips

1                      Courgette – sliced lengthways into strips

Handful           Green Beans – trimmed both ends

1                      Avocado – peeled and sliced

1                      Tomato – sliced

1                      Lemon

2                      Olives

3 dsp                Vegan Mayo (Look out for a brilliant homemade recipe in the near future!)

1 dsp                Dijon Mustard


1                      Toothpick


Before you start, turn on your extractor fan and open your windows – just like a barbeque, it’s going to get a bit smoky!

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC or Gas 5

1.       Make the flavoured oil – pour out the oils into a bowl and add the bayleaf, garlic and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and set aside to allow the flavours to marinate.

2.       Mix the mayonnaise and mustard together to make a Dijonnaise. (If you fancy, mix in a chopped gherkin or a couple of cornichons for a bit of extra zing!)

3.       Turn on your hob to medium/high. Put on the skillet and lightly brush the pan with the oil you prepared earlier.

4.       When the pan starts to smoke slightly, lay the aubergines and courgettes into the skillet. Don’t crowd the skillet – leave enough space to turn the vegetables without damaging them.

5.       Brush the vegetables with the oil, making sure you get bits of garlic and herbs onto them as well and sprinkle with salt. After 2-3 minutes, gently lift up the veggies. If they have dark stripes on them, they are ready to be turned over. They should be well oiled enough but if you see any bit of vegetable without oil, (especially the aubergines), give them a quick dab.

6.       Once the veggies are cooked, place them onto a plate and put them in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the vegetables until they are all cooked and warming in the oven.

7. Leave the green beans till last – they will retain their crunchiness for longer if you do.

8.       Place the bread in the oven for approximately 3-4 minutes or until it’s warm and slightly toasted (you don’t want too much colour on it, you want that just- toasted texture.)

Now here’s the fun bit – Making your sandwich:

1.       Place some of the aubergine and courgette on the bottom slice of bread.

2.       Take the second slice of bread and spread the Dijonnaise on both sides and place on top of the vegetables.

3.       Take some of the avocado and place it on the second slice of bread then top with the remaining aubergine and courgette. Gently place the green beans on top and finish with the remaining avocado. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice to give the entire dish a lift in flavour.

4.       Place the final slice of bread on top and gently press down, making sure nothing falls out.

5.       Gently insert the cocktail stick and finish off by layering with slices of tomato with olives.

The green beans are really important in this sandwich as they give the dish a wonderful crunch which is a great contrast to the now soft and tender aubergines and courgettes.

Cooking vegetables in this way is definitely one of my favourites. It’s very easy to boil, roast or fry the flavour out of a delicately flavoured aubergine, carrot or mushroom but when using a skillet, the flavours jump out at you, giving an almost (dare I say it,) ‘meaty’ flavour. By that I mean it has the richness and depth of flavour which can sometimes be lost in meat, fish and dairy-free meals.

If you don’t like Dijonnaise, you can use the Sun-Dried Tomato and Rocket pesto instead, (see my previous recipe). It’s quite powerful in flavour so use it sparingly; you don’t want to overpower the vegetables.

I would be really interested to hear what you think of this so please recipe so please let me know how it went after you made and (hopefully) enjoyed eating it. You can now sign up for all future blogs to be sent to you via email and you can follow The Caper Tree on Facebook and Twitter – just click on the icons on the top of this blog.

Take care and until next time – don’t be scared, it’s only food!

Lots of love

Danny x

The Caper Tree

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