There’s not much for me to share with you about my week ahead, so I thought I would share with you a recipe for gooey cheesy aubergine (eggplant) bake which I made on Monday as one of our meat-free Monday meals (Andrew is getting wise to this, but he has realised that you can have tasty meat-free meals and he hasn’t complained too much).
I loosely based my gooey cheesy aubergine bake on aubergine parmigiana, the Italian classic which combines aubergine, parmesan cheese and tomatoes. But I had lots of Swiss cheese in my fridge which needed to be used and no parmesan, so went off-piste a little. I didn’t want to risk an outcry from any Italian readers (or kitchen puritans) so ‘gooey cheesy aubergine bake’ it is. To be honest, the name alone makes my mouth water.
Firstly the aubergines, which are also known as eggplants in most parts of the world (we like to be different eh?): I never salt mine. The idea of salting is that it helps to rid the aubergines of excess moisture, but I am sure I read somewhere that Delia doesn’t bother with all that faff, and so I don’t either. And my aubergines always taste delicious.
Aubergines are, however, sponges of the culinary world. Put them in a pan of oil and they will soak it up like there’s no tomorrow. So to avoid this becoming too unhealthy (er, ignore the cheese), I took a tip from Felicity Cloake and only fried half of my sliced aubergines. I briefly cooked the rest in boiling salted water until tender, and I advise you to do the same.
I also read various recipes for tomato sauce, and they also seemed a bit too much effort for my liking (I should probably admit at this point that I was suffering from a hangover, had spent a very busy day at work, and just wanted to get something on the table as quickly as possible). So I simply simmered a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes, a few fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, and some herbs, balsamic vinegar (for a bit of sweetness) and seasoning on the hob whilst I dealt with the aubergines. If you wanted to be even more lazy than me, you could just use a couple of cartons of passata for your tomato sauce (okay, I admit it: I would have used passata but I didn’t have enough in the house!).
And then the cheese, the third – and in my view most vital – component. As I said, parmesan is the classic cheese to use, but I used grated gruyere. Gruyere doesn’t have quite the same pungent, salty flavour as parmesan, but it is still strongly flavoured and salty (which you need) and is deliciously gooey when hot which I think transforms the dish into something even more comforting. I also added some more traditional mozzarella to my recipe for additional gooey stringiness, and it was a triumph.
A final flourish, also nicked from Felicity Cloake, was the idea to top the dish with breadcrumbs before baking. Felicity fries her in garlic, which is a fab idea, but guess what? I was too lazy to bother. They still added a delicious crunch to the gooey cheesy aubergine bake, so I wasn’t complaining. Panko breadcrumbs are best for this, but I am sure any sort would do well if you didn’t have any panko ones (they are always handy to have in the cupboard though, for the best crunchy coatings ever).
Gooey cheesy aubergine bake – serves 4 generously as a main course
- 6 aubergines, rapeseed oil, two tins of chopped tomatoes, a handful of cherry tomatoes, 1 tsp lazy garlic, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 150g gruyere cheese, 1 mozzarella ball, a handful of panko breadcrumbs, salt and pepper
Empty the tomatoes (tinned and fresh), garlic, oregano and balsamic vinegar into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently while you prepare the aubergines. Before assembling the bake, add salt and pepper to taste. Be bold with your seasoning at this stage.
Pop some water on to boil (you will use this to cook your aubergines), and gently heat some rapeseed oil in a frying pan. Top and tail your aubergines and slice lengthways into 1cm thick, long pieces. Half the aubergines should be seasoned and gently fried in the pan with the oil. Be careful to use the minimal oil possible to stop the aubergines catching – they like to drink it up so be cautious. I fried mine for 3 minutes each side on a medium heat, then repeated the process (so each side had 6 minutes in total), and this was enough to leave them golden and tender.
The other aubergines need to be added to the boiling water and cooked for a couple of minutes until they are also tender. Drain them on kitchen paper.
Grate your Gruyere cheese and slice the mozzarella, and you are now ready to assemble the dish, which is a bit like assembling a lasagne.
Firstly put a very thin layer of tomato sauce onto the bottom of the dish, and top with a layer of aubergine (I made sure I had an equal number of fried and non-fried aubergines in each layer). Add a third of the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with a third of the Gruyere cheese.
For layer two, add more aubergine, half of the remaining tomato sauce and half of the remaining cheese. Your final layer needs to use the last of the aubergine, the last of the tomato sauce, the last of the gruyere and all of the mozzarella. Finish by sprinkling with the breadcrumbs and bake in a hot oven at 170 degrees for around 35-40 minutes.
Take the bake out of the oven and allow it to cool for a good 10-15 minutes before serving, as otherwise it will scald your mouth (all that gooey cheese). Serve with crusty bread and a side salad.
The leftovers are delicious the next day as a packed lunch as well.
Even meat-lovers won’t miss the meat in this delicious, filling dish (although I really do need to find some vegetarian meals which aren’t packed full of delicious cheese).
For the coming week, I am going to be in Paris for work for a few days so that kind of puts paid to any serious planning. I’ll probably use up some bits from the freezer, which means pork chops, salmon steaks and faggots will be on the menu at some point when I am around. Expect more next week when I have the bank holiday to prepare and cook to my heart’s content.
I am entering this recipe into Meat Free Mondays by Tinned Tomatoes (how appropriate for this recipe!), The Vegetable Palette by Allotment2Kitchen, and Extra Veg (as it’s all veg, by Jen’s Food, Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy) – why not pop over to all those lovely websites and check out some more delicious dishes?