I’m pretty sure that when Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned “How Do I Love Thee?“, she was writing about aubergines. In fact, I’m also sure that there’s a missing line that goes something like:
I love thee eggplant, melongene, melanzane and brinjal,
guinea squash, or as best known: simple aubergine.
We truly do love aubergines, and when they come into season (starting now – wheeeeeee!), I tend to go a little nuts and use them in every possible (and probably some impossible) meal.
Tall was raised on a cattle farm, and went to an all-boys’ boarding school. I probably don’t need to point out that the idea of a meatless meal is about as appealing to him as having his armpit hairs plucked out with a pair of chopsticks…..unless there’s aubergine involved.
When we lived in St Albans, we often ate at a family-run Italian trattoria called Kamillo’s. They made the tastiest Parmigiana di Melanzane, and I’d order it almost every time. So when I found this recipe, you can imagine how excited I was. The chefs at Kamillo’s also add mozzarella, which adds an amazing creaminess, but this version is pretty tasty without. If you did want to add mozzarella, I’d buy it fresh and lay slice on top of the sauce, underneath the basil and parmesan.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana – serves 4
2 medium-sized dark purple aubergines, cut into 5cm thick slices
extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
500g tomato passata (or make your own tomato sauce and process until smooth)
1T tomato paste
1-2t sugar (optional – depends on sweetness of tomato sauce)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
100g fresh parmesan cheese, grated
Lay aubergine slices on a chopping board and sprinkle liberally with salt. Lay a second chopping board on top of the slices, and place something heavy on the top to press the aubergines. Press for two hours.
Meanwhile, pour 1T of olive oil into a pan and gently fry the garlic until it begins to colour. Add the tomato passata/sauce, tomato paste and sugar (if using) in a second pan, and simmer for 45 minutes, until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally. Season and leave to cool.
Rinse the aubergine slices in a colander, then dry thoroughly with kitchen paper.
Preheat oven to 200degC.
Heat 2-3T of olive oil in a frypan and brown aubergine slices in batches (about 2-3 minutes each side). Drain on kitchen paper.
Place aubergine slices in one layer in the bottom of a small ovenproof dish. Spoon the tomato sauce over the top, sprinkle with basil leaves and parmesan cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes, until aubergine is tender and the top has browned.
Recipe: Matthew Fort – Market Kitchen Cookbook