I regularly read a series of blog posts published by the Guardian written by an experimental cook called Felicity Cloake. She writes under the subject ‘How to cook the perfect xxxxx’, where xxxxx is normally a classic/historical/commonly-ruined foodstuff – recent examples include blueberry muffins (challenge: how to get them massive but still light and fluffy) and aubergine parmigiana (challenge: how to create a really delicious, stodgy dish that tastes authentic, cheesy and not too oily).
I have previously made Felicity’s perfect carbonara (verdict: definitely amazing, made ever so quickly with eggs and – importantly – NO CREAM in sight) and was really keen to try her aubergine parmigiana, a dish I love but have never actually made.
Her original recipe is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/feb/20/how-to-cook-the-perfect-aubergine-parmigiana
Having followed her recipe to the word, I decided that there are actually slightly too many aubergine slices and not quite enough mozzarella slices to make a perfectly layered dish, so have tweaked the recipe ever so slightly here to fix this. Otherwise, it was spectacular. Using only a few simple ingredients means you can really taste the aubergine, which is really welcome. I agree with Felicity that the red wine in the tomato sauce adds a lovely rich depth, so don’t skimp on it!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
You will need:
1kg aubergines (about 4)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
800g good tinned tomatoes
150ml red wine
Pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Plenty of olive oil, to fry
300g mozzarella, thinly sliced
125g Parmesan, grated
Handful of basil leaves
1 – Cut the aubergines carefully lengthways into 5mm slices, sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for half an hour
2 – Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pan over a medium-high heat and add the garlic; fry for a minute, then tip in the tomatoes and wine
3 – Bring to the boil, mashing the tomatoes, stir and then turn down the heat slightly; add a pinch of sugar, a little seasoning and the oregano
4 – Simmer the sauce gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally; puree until smooth
5 – Preheat the oven to 180C while the sauce is cooking
6 – Put a large pan of water on to boil and rinse the aubergines well, and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper; pour enough oil into a frying pan to coat the bottom well, and put on a high heat
7 – Fry half of the aubergine slices until golden brown on both sides, working in batches; meanwhile, blanch the other half in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to sit for 10 minutes before draining well
8 – Lightly grease a large baking dish (or two small ones) with olive oil and spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines (packing them tightly), mozzarella, Parmesan and seasoning; add another layer of aubergines, followed by tomato sauce, the cheeses and seasoning
9 – Repeat this order until you have used up all the aubergine, finishing with a layer of sauce – keep a little Parmesan back for the top
10 -Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbling and browned, then allow to cool slightly and sprinkle with torn basil before serving