Wednesday 8 July 2015

Aubergine Parmigiana

The summer holidays are upon us once more. Once I got rid of the idea that I could be at all productive in my own studies during this period, I started to thoroughly enjoy myself. I do not have to currently rush my children out the door every morning, nor do I have to spend at least 3 hours of the day getting them to and from school and playgroup.

No, instead we have been on day trips to 3 different local beaches, to the zoo, to the Kelpies and the Helix, and, somewhat less excitingly, we have had a leisurely trip to Costco and Ikea where we were fairly self restrained in our purchases, investing instead in parenting smugness.

My husband works from home in our small flat, so the pressure is always on to get everyone outside, but today things outside did not look good. The forecast was rain, rain, and more rain. Not wanting to visit the museum AGAIN, and dealing with three kids who were still tired from outings earlier this week, we decided to have a day mostly at home, leaving the flat only to go to the shops for rations.

After spending three hours playing monopoly (where I was not, I confess, able to hold myself back, even with a five year old pouting) I set to work on this baby, a rainy day meal to be sure:

The vegetarian meal that doesn't feel vegetarian, and is available in every respectable good Italian restaurant: Aubergine/eggplant Parmigiana. A meal, as Mr River Cottage dude says, is somehow greater than the sum of all its parts. And it is simple, if it does take ages. Don't kid yourself, grilling those aubergines/eggplants always takes a while, and is a big pain the the backside, but it is worth it if you have the time.

I sliced 5 small ones and gave them a dose of olive oil with my pastry brush then put them on to grill.

They came out in various shades of doneness; this was part of the first batch to come out:

It took 3 batches to finish them, taking quite a while to cook through.

The sauce was put on while they cooked - just a simple affair of tinned tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and some fresh basil thrown in once it had sufficiently thickened.

Then three layers went into a baking dish: aubergines, then sauce, then fresh mozzarella and parmesan, and this was repeated three times over.

After forty minutes in the oven, it came out looking like this:

And smelled amazing. I served it with garlic bread. Look at that precision, how carefully the lines were cut, how beautifully the bread was shaped.

Yeah, that's because I bought it ready-made from Lidl. 

I can't give you their recipe for it, but I can give you the Aubergine one:

INGREDIENTS5 small eggplants (about 2 pounds)
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
2 balls buffalo mozzarella (about 4ounces each), torn into pieces
About 1.25 ounces parmesan, hard goat cheese, or other well-flavored hard cheese, grated
For the tomato sauce:2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (14-ounce) cans plum toamtoes, coarsely chopped, any stalky ends and skin removed
Good handfull of fresh basil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a little sugar
Trim aubergines and cut into thin slices lengthwise. Heat your grill/broiler to high heat, then brush each slice with olive oil and grill on each side until browned. Remove to paper towels and continue until all are cooked.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a very large, wide pan over medium heat.
Add the onions and garlic and saute gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer, then simmer briskly, stirring often, for about half an hour, or until the sauce is thick and rich. Season well with salt and pepper and a little sugar to taste, then add basil and leave to infuse.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Lay a third of the eggplant slices in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, 8 by 10 inches and at least 2 inches deep. Cover with a third of the tomato sauce. Dot a third of the mozzarella over the sauce, then scatter a thin layer of grated cheese over that. Repeat with the remaining ingredients so you have three layers in the dish.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. Serve with lots of fresh green salad – and bread, if you like.

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