Way way back many centuries ago, back when I had lots of free time and lots of headspace to think about this blog and write on it at least once a week (sorry that’s not happening at the moment, I really am), I made a chicken parmigiana. It was wonderful, intense and delicious, so I cheerily took a terrible photo of it and obviously, never made it again.
Recently, I went to visit some friends who have just had a new baby and decided I wanted to make them something delicious and comforting that they could stick in the freezer and pull out when they were too tired from the simple act of, y’know, keeping a human alive, that they couldn’t be arsed to cook. This chicken immediately sprung to mind – but one of these friends is vegetarian.
No problem, I thought. I’ll just make it with aubergine instead. The original parmigiana in Italy was made with aubergine, anyway, and it’s only when the rest of the world got hold of it that we started adding meat to it.
This is one of those recipes that takes time, but very little time is spent actually doing stuff. Most of it is spent hanging around waiting for stuff to be done – a bit like making bread. I managed to make an entire army’s worth of shortbread while I was making this, so it can’t be too complicated.
It’s best made in a deep, narrow dish so that the sauce totally covers the aubergine and you get several layers of everything – this one was, in hindsight, too big. Still worked, though! And it’s satisfying to make – the texture of aubergines is delicious to slice though, and it’s all very soothing making those layers of vegetable and sauce.
To serve four
- 4 cans of chopped tomatoes (approx)
- Several handfuls of grated mozzarella (you could also use a ball and tear it up)
- A large handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5. Line two large baking trays with parchment and set aside
- Slice the aubergines about as thick as two pounds coins stacked up on each other so that you end up with fat little rounds of vegetable
- Mix the eggs with two tablespoons of water and pour into a wide, shallow bowl. In a similar bowl mix the breadcrumbs with 120g of the parmesan, the oregano, the fennel seeds, and lots of salt and pepper
- Dip the aubergine slices in first the eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture, coating on all side. Place on the baking trays and continue until all slices are used up
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on each side. Take the aubergine out of the oven, and put the heat up to 200C/Gas Mark 6
- Take a deep, medium-width roasting tray. Pour in a can of tomatoes and spread over the bottom of the dish, then sprinkle over half of the basil. Arrange the aubergine to cover the bottom of the dish, cover with another can of tomatoes, another handful of basil, then add a handful of mozzarella. Repeat this until all the aubergine is used up, finishing with a layer of mozzarella. Sprinkle with the remaining 30g of parmesan and a good twist of black pepper
- Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Serve with a peppery salad, like watercress, or steamed green vegetables