Fusion or confusion?


I may have mentioned before how irritating I find the modern-day obsession with the portmanteau – the ugly, lazy shunting together of two words to create a new condensed car-crash term. I’ve had it up to here with mansplaining, flopaganda, staycations, bromances and – the worst of them all – Brexit. Enough already.

But the same thing is happening with food. Sparked by the success of the cronut in 2013 – a croissant-doughnut hybrid – we appear to have developed a slightly unhinged fixation with Frankenstein foods – the forcing together of (often random) ingredients to create something that is supposedly (but rarely) greater than the sum of its parts. So we have the wonut, the duffin, the brookie and the cruffin (you can work them out for yourself). We have burgers that instead of brioche buns are encased in ramen noodles or sushi rice, we have hotdogs sheathed in those revolting American Twinkie buns, we have jerk chicken potstickers, we have sushi burritos, we even have tofu edamame falafel tacos. What the actual?

I’m all for a bit of fusion cookery. After all, it’s been happening for centuries and it’s how recipes evolve. Done well, it can result in all manner of yum. Give me a bowl of barley risotto or a bânh mi (French baguette, Vietnamese salad) and I’m a happy bunny. Hell, I’ll even give a curried shepherd’s pie a run out. Indeed, one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten was Honey & Co’s cheesecake made with feta on a bed of shredded Middle Eastern kadaif pastry.

But it seems foodie hipsters the world over are tripping over their beards to come up with ever whackier food combos in the hope of sparking a new craze. It’s all a bit try-hard. And while monsters are being created, little heed is being paid to good taste, which after all, is the thing that really matters. Carbonara spaghetti doughnut anyone?

Spaghetti doughnuts: be afraid, be very afraid Pic: POPSUGAR

Caponata with burrata and garlic bruschetta

Here is a fusion dish that makes perfect sense: a mash up between a French ratatouille and a Sicilian caponata, because while I love the sweet-sour notes of a traditional aubergine-based caponata, I like the variety of veg used in a ratatouille. Judge me if you will, but at least I haven’t renamed it craponata or tried to shape it into a doughnut.

Serves 4

  • about 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium aubergine, diced into 2cm pieces
  • 1 red pepper, diced into 1cm pieces
  • 1 large courgette, diced as above
  • 2 sticks celery, diced as above
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp capers (rinsed if in salt)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2-1 tbsp sugar (to taste)
  • handful of toasted pine nuts
  • a few basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 slices sourdough, griddled or grilled, brushed with olive oil, then rubbed with the cut side of a clove of garlic
  • 4 balls of burrata
  1. Heat two frying pans and add half the oil to each. In one gently fry the onion, celery and red pepper for 10 minutes until softened. Then add the courgette and chopped chilli and fry for another five minutes before adding the garlic and frying for a further minute. In the other pan, fry the aubergine more vigorously until golden brown all over and softened. When cooked, stir the aubergine into the other pan of vegetables.
  2. Pour in the tomatoes and break up with a fork or potato masher, then fill the tomato can half up with water and pour into the pan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until thickened.
  3. Add the capers, sugar and vinegar with a good pinch of salt and grinding of black pepper. Taste and add more salt, sugar or vinegar as required. It should be fairly sweet with an acid tang from the capers and vinegar.
  4. Serve on toasted sourdough (don’t forget to rub on that garlic – it makes all the difference), with a ball of burrata per person (or half if you’re being mean virtuous), drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and scatter over the pine nuts and torn basil leaves.IMG_3553

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