Hooray! The sun finally made an appearance last week and it was a very welcomed one indeed. The more the sun beams down onto my extremely willing skin which eagerly soaks up its warmth, the more I get transported back to my time spent on my uncles land in Italy last year. In particular it has made me think of one of my favourite things – the aubergine or melanzane in Italian.
One of the abundances we brought home with us from our summer road trip to Puglia was the much-adored aubergine. In my opinion the aubergine is royalty amongst other Mediterranean vegetables. Its glossy, dark and intense purple hue, I’d say alone safely gives justice to this statement.
We had A LOT of aubergines and not one to waste food I made sure we used every last one. So here are three recipes of what I made with our heavy stash.
Parmigiana in southern Italy is like a religion. In fact that may be where it’s Puglian origins lie as it’s traditionally eaten on the eve of St. Oronzo a religious festival that takes place in Lecce every August. Although it is eaten very widely in Puglia there seems to be lots of mystery surrounding the roots of this dish with Sicily, Campania and Naples all claiming it as their own. Well, wherever it came from I know it’s delicious and it is always devoured very rapidly whenever I make it at home. Lots of people seem to have different takes on this dish, but this is the way I like, adapted from my Italian aunties recipe. I have to say it’s minus the meat, I prefer mine without it.
2 Large aubergines
150g Plain flour
Large ball of Mozzarella
For the sauce
1 Garlic clove
2 Tins good quality chopped tomatoes
150g Tomato puree
1 tbsp Sugar
Salt and pepper
Method Oven 180C
- Make to sauce by frying the onion in some olive oil, then add the garlic and fry a little. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar and salt and pepper. Fill each empty tomato tin with ¾ water and add to the sauce. Stir and bring to the boil then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour until sauce has thickened up.
- Slice the aubergines lengthways as thinly as you can (around 3-4 mm).
- Break the eggs into a bowl and add a little seasoning, then beat with a fork.
- Cover the slices of aubergine with some flour then into dip into the egg and shallow fry in olive oil. Continue to do this until all the slices are fried.
- Assemble the Parmigiana in alternative layers of tomato sauce, fried aubergine, basil leaves, mozzarella and grated parmesan until all the ingredients are used up. Make sure to leave enough tomato sauce to cover the top nicely. Finish off by grating parmesan over the top.
- Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce bubbles at edges and the cheese has melted.
In Italy they say simplicity is the best and I agree. Good produce along with high quality ingredients far outweighs fiddly dishes with foams, dews and reductions. Let the aubergine glisten in all its’ smothered in olive oil glory.
2 Sprigs of fresh mint
3 tbsp White wine vinegar
2 Garlic cloves
Small red chilli (deseeded)
- Slice the aubergines thinly lengthways.
- Preheat griddle pan to a high heat.
- Brush aubergines with olive oil and cook them for about 2 minutes on each side until soft.
- Cut the garlic, chilli and mint finely and add to the white wine vinegar.
- Pour over the griddled aubergines and let soak in for 10 minutes.
- Enjoy as an antipasto, eat with bread or place on top of a green salad.
With our joyous aubergines slowly wrinkling in front of our eyes and no more Parmigiana to be had I thought a good old chutney was in order. This chutney is great eaten with some strong cheddar cheese, or if you’re my boyfriend with anything at all.
1 kg Aubergines
2 Red onions (roughly chopped)
Clove of garlic
1 Red chilli
1tbsp Tomato puree
Pinch of salt
500ml Cider vinegar
450g Soft brown sugar
2tsp Onion seeds
- Cut aubergines into cubes and place in a heavy based pan with onions and a pinch of salt. Add tomato puree and stir to combine.
- Pour in the vinegar and sugar then stir, add in the rest of the ingredients and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Now turn up the heat and bring mixture to the boil.
- Turn down to a simmer and cook on a low heat for 1 – 1½ hours making sure to stir occasionally to stop it from sticking. It should be ready once it’s thick, sticky and the vinegar is absorbed. Remove cinnamon stick.
- Spoon into sterilised jars, place a wax disc on top then the lid and store in a cool dark place. Flavours will mature within 1 month. Once opened keep in fridge. Tastes lovely with a hunk of mature cheddar cheese.