This is Jan’s version of the classic Italian dish, melanzane parmigiana. In restaurants, it is often offered as a starter but Jan thinks it is way too much effort to make as a starter.
It is a delicious dish for lunch or supper, served with crisp green salad and (for hearty appetites) crusty bread.
Jan’s version has a few short-cuts but this is not a dish you can rustle up in a few minutes. Although time-consuming to make, this dish is convenient as it can either be fully prepared or half-prepared (up to baking stage) a few days ahead; it keeps well under refrigeration for 3-4 days pre- or post baking and it freezes really well.
These days, too, aubergines have been cultivated so that they no longer need to be salted before cooking, thus removing one stage from the lengthy preparation.
4 large aubergines – look for aubergines that are deep in colour and glossy
2 x 400g (approx net weight) cans chopped tomatoes
140g (Approx) can tomato puree
1oz granulated or Demerara sugar
250g chopped frozen onion OR 1 large onion chopped
150g chopped frozen garlic OR 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
400-600g grated Mozzarella cheese (400g is the minimum needed for this dish, but if you like it good and cheesy, use 600g)
300g grated Parmesan cheese
Approx 100mls olive oil
Salt/black pepper to taste
1 teasp Italian seasoning OR Herbes de Provence OR Oregano
To cook: Deep dish approx 8 x 10, lightly brushed with olive oil (Or to save washing up, a disposable foil dish (around 8 x 10 x 3).
- Pre-heat grill to ‘high’ approx.300 degrees.
- Remove tops and stalks from aubergines and slice as evenly as possible. Slices of around 1.5cm (approx. half an inch) are ideal – too thin and they burn; too thick and they don’t tenderise properly. The uniform thickness of the slices is far more important than the size of the slices.
- Lightly oil a flat, oven-proof tray (a grill pan or extra large foil baking tray would be perfect) then place slices side by side on the tray. The slices should lay flat and should not overlap (Jan always grills the aubergine slices in two batches). Brush each slice lightly with olive oil. Place tray under grill. They normally take 9-12 mins but check after 7-8 mins so they don’t burn. The aubergine slices are ready to turn when they are golden brown and softened slightly. Turn each slice, brush lightly with olive oil and return to the grill for 3-5 mins. If cooking in two batches, place first batch of slices on kitchen paper while you grill the remainder.
- While the aubergines are grilling, make the sauce. Place a splash of olive oil in a saucepan and heat gently. Add onion and garlic and cook gently until softened and golden brown (3-4 mins). Add sugar, cover and simmer gently for 5 mins until sugar caramelizes. Add the chopped tomatoes (with their juice), the tomato puree, herbs and seasoning. Stir well and increase heat until sauce is bubbling gently. Carefully taste to check seasoning. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes. Take sauce from heat.
To put the dish together, ladle about a third of the sauce into the greased cooking dish. Lay half of the aubergine slices in the sauce side by side to cover the dish. It doesn’t matter if the sauce engulfs the aubergine slices. Then spread approx half of the grated mozzarella over the aubergine slices, then add a layer of parmesan, again using roughly half the total quantity. Ladle on another third of sauce and add another layer with the rest of the aubergine slices. Ladle on all the remaining sauce followed by the rest of the grated mozzarella and the rest of the parmesan.
- To complete, pre-heat oven to around 200 degrees. Place dish in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until brown on top and bubbling. (If taken from a very cold fridge, it may need a little extra baking time).
- Once you have put it together and it has cooled, you can refrigerate it for 2-3 days and bake it just before serving. Or bake, cool and either refrigerate or freeze.
- To reheat: cover with foil and place in an oven pre-heated to around 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes, removing foil for the last few minutes so it can brown.
- This dish is most delicious served very warm rather than piping hot, so allow it to cool a little before serving.
Do let us know if you have made this dish, or have your own version. We can share it!
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