Aubergines in tomato sauce (a.k.a. melanzane alla parmigiana)

Tonight was an opportunity to try our take on a classic Italian aubergine dish ‘melanzane alla parmigiana’.   There are probably several recipes out there but essentially they all entail grilling slices of aubergines, layering them with tomato sauce and then topping it with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese before placing under a hot grill.   That is pretty much what we did and the personalization comes with each individuals preferred version of the tomato sauce.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 large aubergines – cut into 5 cm thick slices
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400 gms)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2-3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano (optional – we have some growing in our herb patch)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Small handful of fresh basil and parsley chopped
  • Handful grated Parmesan chesse
  • 125 gm fresh mozzarella cheese sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Enough for 2 mains or 4 sides

How do I make it?

First rub the aubergine slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on a griddle pan and cook till they begin to caramelize – keep aside till assembly.   For the sauce, heat some olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic for a minute before adding the red chilli flakes, chopped onion and bay leaves.  Continue to cook on medium heat till the onions are translucent – sprinkle the dried oregano and fresh oregano if you have it.   Add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar with around 200 ml of water.    Cook on low heat till the sauce thickens.  Adjust the seasoning, add the balsamic vinegar, garnish with fresh basil and parsley and then turn off the heat.

To assemble the dish place alternating layers of aubergine and sauce and finish with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a layer of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Place under grill at 220 degrees Centigrade till the cheese melts and forms a nice golden crust.  Cut into portions and serve hot.  Enjoy.

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Spicy aubergine and potato curry

We’ve extolled the virtues of the aubergine and potato combination in an earlier blog and that dish inspired us to create another but with a thick sauce this time.   This dish works really well with a simple rice pilau and probably just as well with an Indian bread of choice.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 8 baby aubergines quartered (not a small aubergine but the bulb variety)
  • 6 small potatoes – peeled, quartered and par boiled and then fried till golden brown
  • I medium onion chopped
  • 2 small tomatoes chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2″ piece of ginger
  • 6 small green chillies
  • Handful of coriander and mint
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee
  • Coriander for garnish
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Coarsely grind the peppercorns and cumin seeds first and then mix with the caraway seeds.   Use a pestle and mortar to make a coarse paste of the garlic, ginger, green chilies, coriander and mint.   Heat a heavy bottom pan and add the ghee.  First add the coarse powder with caraway seeds and stir for 30 seconds before adding the paste.   Stir the paste for a few minutes before adding the chopped onions.   Cook over medium heat till the onions start to brown and then add chopped tomatoes.  Continue cooking till the fat leaves the masala before adding the aubergines and a cup of water.   Cover and cook on low heat till the aubergines are cooked through.   Add the fried potatoes, adjust the seasoning and garnish with fresh chopped coriander.  Enjoy.

 

Roast aubergine and Charlotte potatoes

I think aubergines/egg plant/brinjal what ever you prefer to call it with potatoes is a great combination of flavours.  We had some left over small aubergines in the fridge which I decided to cook with some seasonal Charlotte potatoes – the dish was spiced and roasted in a pan.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 4 small round aubergines quartered (get these in most Indian and Chinese shops)
  • 5-6 Charlotte potatoes skinned, cut into wedges and parboiled
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 3-4 as a side dish

How do I make it?

Crush cumin seeds and peppercorn to a coarse powder in a pestle and mortar.  Heat pan, add oil and then add coarse mixture .  Saute for a couple of minutes before adding the sliced onions.  Saute for five minutes till the onions turn golden brown.  Dissolve the turmeric, red chilli and coriander power in about 60 ml of water and add to the onions.  Give it a good stir before adding the aubergines.  Cook for 5 minutes before adding the par boiled potatoes.   Adjust the seasoning and cook over low heat till aubergines are cooked through.   Enjoy with Indian bread of choice.

Garden fresh

After skipping last year our little garden is back with a vengeance.   Anna has taken a lot of time and effort to clean up the back yard and plant a range of vegetables, herbs and salad leaves.  Our pot of rocket leaves has given us our first garden meal of the season – recalling the dressing that Magi had served me in Dubai I pulled together a rocket salad with pomegranate seeds and baby plum tomatoes and dressed it with homemade baba ghanouj/muthabal.   Once you prepare a fresh baba ghanouj or hummus you will stop buying the ready made stuff.  Here’s my interpretation of the classic Middle East dip which was ground a little finer than it should have.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp Tahini paste
  • 1 lime
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste

How do I make it?

Rub little oil to the eggplants and roast in hot oven (200 degree s in a fan assisted electric oven) or alternatively roast over open flame till skin is blackened.  Allow eggplant to cool before skinning it and keep aside.   Put all ingredients into a blender and blitz to a chunky consistency.  Serve with pita bread, corn chips or use as salad dressing.

 

Salad therapy – Arabian delight

Admittedly my trip to Dubai has proven to be a bit of a challenge for my elder sister Magi as to what to make for lunch everyday.  She enjoys cooking as well (my nieces can attest to that) and has made me a different salad everyday along with a couple of vegetarian subjis.  Today she introduced me to a dressing which I hadn’t considered before and is definitely going to form part of my repertoire moving forward.  I would like to share this with you as I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you do to.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 packet rocket leaves
  • 1/4 large cucumber peeled and cubed
  • 6-8 small red radishes finely sliced
  • 4-5 large green pitted olives sliced
  • Handful of grapes – we had red seedless but I am sure green would work just as well
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • Dollop of mutabbal (aka baba ghanouj – roasted egg plant with garlic, olive oil and tahini sauce)

How much will I make?

Enough for 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish

How do I make it?

Place rocket leaves in a bowl and sprinkle other ingredients.  Adjust seasoning but bear in mind that the mutabbal has enough salt.  Serve the salad in a bowl with a dollop of mutabbal and enjoy.