These beautiful Antigua (oh to be there…) aubergines were in our weekly veg delivery this week. I love them, but unfortunately I can’t seem to get these past the children (yet) in their natural form…the only way is if I cook them and put them in a ‘hide the veg’ pasta sauce all razzed up. I decided I wouldn’t waste these beauties and thought the husband and I would have a meat free Monday à la school. Predictably when he asked what was for supper, and I explained….his response was, “Oh right, but you’re adding some mince to this right?” Later he did actually admit how tasty it was.
This is defintely one of my go to vegetarian dishes that is probably the most requested on my vegetarian menus. I am sure you all have this in your repertoire, but this is a super simple, delicious version of the classic dish Aubergine Parmigiana. All of my favourite big flavours of onion, tomato and garlic, together with sweet basil, nutty parmesan and juicy aubergine gives you a gorgeously fruity supper.
Also a great way to learn how to make the king of sauces, tomato, which can be tossed through pasta, meatballs or added to browned mince for lasagne or cannelloni. The splash of wine vinegar cuts through the richness to give it a fresh sharpness that I think it needs. Some people add a pinch of sugar, but I don’t think it needs it as really good quality tinned tomatoes these days are beautifully sweet. Make sure you simmer the sauce so it reduces a little to get that intense flavour.
Until quite recently I used to slice the aubergines and salt them before cooking, to draw out the juices, sound familiar? As I am sure your mother taught you too! This was to reduce the bitterness of the aubergine, however over the years the bitterness has been bred out of the aubergine so you can go straight to the cooking. The other reason this was done was to avoid the aubergine acting like a total lush when it was anywhere near oil, which is why I use a griddle to cook them instead of a frying pan. If you don’t have a griddle, don’t worry just don’t use too much oil, or alternatively pop them in a single layer on a baking tray in a hot oven for a couple of minutes.
Ps If your husband really does object…add the mince and there you have a Moussaka voilà!
Serves 5-6 depending on hunger levels
3 x Aubergines
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 heaped tsp dried oregano
2 x 400g plum or chopped tomatoes
Splash of wine vinegar
Handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 large handfuls grated parmesan
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
Fresh oregano or thyme
1. Remove the stalks of your aubergines and slice into 1cm slices. Heat a griddle until really hot.
2. Meanwhile heat 2-3 glugs of olive oil in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and oregano and cook until the onion is soft and the garlic slightly coloured.
3. Break up the tomatoes if using whole plum and add to the pan, give it a good stir and simmer on low with the lid on for 15 minutes.
4. Add some oil to the griddle and cook the aubergines on both sides, until they are slightly coloured, like in my pic.
5. Season the tomato sauce once it’s slightly reduced and tastes deliciously sweet, add a splash of white wine vinegar and add your basil. I like the texture of the sauce to be chunky but you could put it in the liquidiser or magmixi and purée if you prefer.
6. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add your breadcrumbs, toast until lovely and golden
Next you can start layering, starting with tomato sauce followed by a thin scattering of grated parmesan, then a single layer of aubergines. Repeat, finishing with tomato sauce, parmesan and then sprinkle over your breadcrumbs and any left over parmesan. If you have some fresh oregano you could add some to finish. I didn’t have any fresh oregano so sprinkled some fresh thyme over instead.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C/375 F for about 30 minutes, keep an eye on it as all ovens vary. Serve with a green salad and some fresh lockdown sourdough..!