My post this week is inspired by this wonderful aubergine (eggplant) I bought recently from an Italian deli. The size of a small football, it weighed in at just over 700g. The variety is Italian round aubergine or Melanzane to give it its authentic Italian name.
Aubergine is one of my favourite vegetables – I love the way it cooks down to a rich, melting tenderness – and my number one recipe for serving it is simply baked in homemade tomato and garlic sauce.
Round aubergine can be prepared just as you would the standard black variety. I cut it in half and then sliced each half in half again and then into approx. 1cm thick slices. It looks like a giant purple bug don’t you think?
I always salt aubergine as I find it cooks more quickly and also cooks more tenderly. Simply lay the slices in layers in a large colander or strainer, sprinkling with salt as you go, and then leave to stand over a plate or bowl for 30 minutes. After this time, you should see water exuding from the slices. Rinse thoroughly and then pat dry with kitchen paper.
The sauce is made with ripe tomatoes, garlic and a bunch of fresh herbs tied together for flavour. It is seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little sugar and enriched with a dash of olive oil. I have outlined the cooking stages below but for more details, take a look at this previous post for some more illustrations on tomato sauce-making Pesto pancake and tomato layer (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)
I topped mine with some grated Parmesan, but a non-dairy alternative works just as well. If you prefer not to use cheese at all, sprinkle the top with gluten-free dried breadcrumbs or polenta, or leave the bake untopped and cover the dish with foil when ready to bake.
For the sauce:
- 1.25kg ripe tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
- Large sprig each of fresh thyme and sage
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2tsp caster sugar
- 2tbsp good quality olive oil
For the aubergine:
- 750g aubergine, sliced into 1cm thick slices
- Approx. 150ml good quality olive oil
- 50g freshly grated Parmesan or plant-based alternative, optional – or 3tbsp dry gluten-free breadcrumbs or polenta
1. Make the sauce first so that it is cold when you assemble the dish. You can make it up a day or two beforehand to save time on the day you want to serve it. Put the tomatoes in a deep frying pan or large saucepan and add the herbs and garlic. Season well. Cover with a lid and cook over a low/medium heat for about 40 minutes until soft and collapsed.
2. Discard the herbs, then push the tomatoes and garlic through a nylon sieve to extract as much tomato pulp as you can. Return the pulp to a clean pan and add sugar to taste; spoon in the oil. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook gently for 30-40 minutes until thickened and reduced – you will need about 450-500ml for this recipe. Leave to cool, then cover and chill until ready to use.
3. For the aubergine, salt them as I described above, then rinse well and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat 2-3tbsp oil in a large frying pan and fry a few slices at a time for 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly golden. Drain well on kitchen paper. Repeat using more oil as needed to fry the remaining slices. Leave to cool, then cover and chill until ready to assemble the bake.
4. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Spread one third of the sauce over the bottom of a 1.5l baking dish and top with half the aubergine slices. Add half the remaining sauce and top with the remaining aubergine slices.
5. Spoon the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese or crumbs. Stand the dish on a baking tray and bake for about 50 minutes until tender, golden and bubbling.
Leave the bake to stand for 10 minutes before serving. I sprinkled the top with the last few leaves of homegrown basil from my greenhouse and accompanied it with a crisp salad and some freshly cooked rice. It was absolutely delicious 🙂
I hope you have a good few days ahead. We will be into November the next time I post. I know I say this quite a lot but where does the time go? Until then, take care and best wishes to you. Thanks for stopping by 🙂