Sophie Dahl is my latest culinary obsession. I bought one of her cookbooks recently, based on a vague recollection of my brother telling me she was pescatarian and had made a good TV series a few years ago. It’s turned out to be a winning move – there are a fair few meat and fish recipes thrown in, but it contains loads of great vegetarian recipes and it’s really beautifully organised and set out. She divides the books into seasons, and each season into breakfast, lunch and dinner, and lord knows I’m a big fan of such structure. It’s lovely to flick through, and I enjoy the brief dedications or anecdotes with each recipe.
The omelette I posted about last week was the second of the recipes that I’d tried, behind this delight. I was on the lookout for a new recipe to cook for friends the other weekend, and settled on this aubergine parmigiana, as it’s a dish that is very tasty, not stressful to make, and not really that common in Hong Kong (as opposed to, say, risotto, which most western restaurants offer). It didn’t turn out as elegant as I’d hoped, but it was still really delicious. The aubergine slices are good and meaty, but the real highlight for me was the sweet, rich tomato sauce. It’s good food for sharing with friends, or even just a midweek dinner.
Serves 4-6, from Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights
3 medium-sized aubergines
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
50g fresh chopped basil
300g buffalo mozzarella, sliced
60g grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Slice the aubergines into 1cm thick slices lengthways. Lay them on a flat surface and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic. Sweat them over a gentle heat for about ten minutes until soft, stirring them frequently.
3. Tip in the tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and seasoning.
4. Simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes.
5. Put the aubergine slices on a baking tray (I needed more than one) in a single layer. Brush them with olive oil.
6. Bake the slices for 15 minutes until they start to turn golden.
7. Grease a large ovenproof dish with a little more oil. Remove the aubergine from the oven and arrange a layer of them to cover the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle on some basil and one third of the mozzarella. (Obviously it depends on the size of your dish, but I got 3 layers out of mine.)
8. Pour or ladle on one third of the thickened tomato sauce, and top with a third of the Parmesan.
9. Repeat the layers with the rest of the ingredients, finishing up with Parmesan and a little extra basil.
10. Bake for 20 minutes.