Aubergine Parmigano

I plan to grow my own aubergines in the garden (so far, so slow), and tomatoes to make my own passata and I alreaday grow basil successfully. And although I don’t intend to keep buffalos to make my own mozzarella, this dish as close as I get to using ingredients that are mostly mine.

The recipe is easy to make, layering the aubergines, mozzarella, tomato and parmesan and cook it until it all melts. It’s also great for dinner parties and easy weekend lunches.

Serves 4
Total cooking time: 1 hr 30 mins
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 1 hr

Ingredients:

* 3 Aubergines
* 2 tbsps Salt, plus one pinch.
* 400g Mozzarella, ripped into pieces.
* 1 jar Tomato passata
* 1 Pinch Fresh ground black pepper
* 1 Bunch Fresh basil
* 80g Parmesan, flaked.
* 2 tbsps Olive oil, for cooking

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 180c / gas mark 5. Cut the aubergines into slices approximately 1.5cm thick, sprinkle them with salt, lay them on a plate and put another plate on top of them with a weight on the top to squeeze the aubergines together. This will draw out any bitterness in the aubergines. You don’t get many bitter aubergines and you may be lucky, but one day you will and it will ruin your dish unless you’ve salted them first so it’s just not worth the risk.

Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse the salt off and dry the aubergine slices.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the aubergine in batches until golden, drain on lots of kitchen roll.

Once all the aubergine has been fried, take a big, deep casserole and layer starting with aubergine, then mozarella, passata, salt and pepper, basil and finally parmesan flakes. Continue until all the aubergine has been used. You should have 2-3 layers depending on how deep and wide your casserole is.

Put the lid on and bake for 1 hour – the top layer of parmesan should be golden brown and the mozzarella should be melted. Aga: roasting oven, shelf on oven floor for 30 minutes then transfer to the simmering oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and green salad.

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Noodle, chicken and aubergine coconut laksa

This is a summer favourite, tasty, filling but still light despite the coconut milk. I found it a few years ago in delicious magazine. The key for this dish is timing and preparation. It’s worth it.

Ingredients:
Serves 4
Ready in about 40 minutes

1/2 x 250g pack dried medium rice noodles (if you can’t find medium rice noodles, use ready-to-stir-fry rice noodles and add directly to the laksa in step 3.
1 medium aubergine halved lengthways and cut into 5mm slices
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy red curry paste, which is robust and perfect for this dish)
400 ml can reduced-fat coconut milk (my local Waitrose use to sell it, it can be hard to find so full fat has to do sometimes)
600 ml hot chicken stock
4 small skinless chicken breasts
1 lemongrass stalk bruised
150g sugar snap peas halved lengthways
1/2 tsp soft brown sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lime plus extra lime wedges to serve
good handful of fresh basil leaves

1. In a wide bowl, cover the noodles with boilidng water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain, refresh in cold water and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. Put the aubergine on a baking tray, brush with the oil and season with salt. Grill for 4-5 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
3. Stir-fry the curry paste in a large pan or wok over a medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and lemongrass, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Lift out the chicken with a slotted spoon and shred (I use two forks to do this, just like you see waiters in chinese restaurants shred crispy duck.)
4. Return the chicken to the pan with the sugar snaps and aubergine. Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the noodles, sugar, zest and juice, and most of the basil and heat through. Season and ladle into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges and the remaining basil leaves.

Wine note: A Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc goes well with this as does Australian Viognier.