I'm not sure that there has ever been a point in my life when I haven't looked on with adoration at a canapé. As a child, they were perfect bite-sized morsels of deliciousness that I was allowed to eat using my fingers. When I was a teenager, and earned money waitressing, serving canapés was so much easier than full silver-service at table. Now that I host parties, I get the opportunity to be creative and serve up a variety of meals in miniature. It appeals to my fastidious nature, and my love of variety.
Having said all of that, it was never the intention for these involtini to be canapés. They were actually supposed to be the vegetarian half of a stuffed neck of lamb dish. But what with one thing and another, we found ourselves biting into these salty-sweet and sticky bundles whilst standing beneath the fruit trees in lpm's and StrawberryFrog's garden, sipping an Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc, and basking in some late evening sunshine. That was definitely how they were meant to be enjoyed.
The spicing, the apricots, and the aubergine give this roots in North Africa, but the method is definitely Italian. All of which combines to make something that could well have evolved in Sicily. It's the feta that gives it away, though: Mediterranean fusion food that came out of a kitchen in London.
Involtini are not difficult to make, but they do require a certain degree of patience. I wouldn't recommend trying to make them in a hurry, and nor when your guests are about to arrive. A few hours in advance would be fine, then just gently reheat them in the oven. So they might be time-expensive food, but they are worth it.
Ingrediments makes about 20, which is good for 10 people if served with other bits and pieces
Preheat your grill to something high.
Take your slices of aubergine, brush lightly with olive oil, and place on a lined baking sheet beneath the grill. The aim is to cook them until they are sticky and sweet and golden. You're probably looking at 15 minutes on the first side, and seven minutes on the second side. However, I don't know your grill, so please keep your eye on them.
Whilst the aubergines are cooking, finely chop the apricots. There is nothing to stop you from doing this with an exceptionally sharp knife and a deft hand, but I prefer the food processor. Tip into a mixing bowl.
Crumble the feta into the mixing bowl with the apricots, add the spices and seasoning, the honey, and the zest and a tablespoon of juice from the orange. Mix
thoroughly and taste test. You might find it necessary to balance the spices, or to moisten the mixture a little more with some more orange juice. It is not meant to be of a sloppy consistency: it needs to be moist
, but be able to hold its shape.
When the aubergines are cooked and cool enough to handle, dollop a generous teaspoon of filling onto the narrower end, and then roll up. Place the involtini join-side down on a baking sheet.
Heat the involtini through in the oven about ten minutes before you're ready to serve them, then arrange on a suitable platter, and hope that its sunny outside. If not, you'll just have to imagine that you're standing in a Sicilian orange grove.
Music to cook to: Conor Oberst, Conor Oberst