VEGGIE BAKE Parmagiana di Melanzane – think low-carb lasagna, with the goodness of veg.
The amazing hot weather came. We had a long-standing agreement to meet some friends in north Mayo, in Bangor, in July, regardless of rain, hail or snow. Our lovely friends, Gail, her son Timmy and daughter-in-law Laoise and their three kids led us to exceptionally beautiful and empty beaches.
We Cabots brought a nice but simple picnic of bread, dips, olives, crisps and popcorn. Our friends blew our minds with their tiny portable gas stove and feasts of quesadillas. There were wheaten wraps of plain cheese heated and melted on a pan for kids. For adults, quesadillas filled with melted cheese, peppers, spring onions and avocado. There was Fanta and cheese and onion and salt and vinegar crisps. Obviously all with a thin layer of sand inside…. Who could ever want more?
Coming home, we were met with a shock of traffic. Adults and children alike, we were all over-tired and cranky. The heat was killing (what an amazing complaint!). We were low on supplies at home, but the idea of parking up in the roasting sun and doing a supermarket shop was out of the question.
We pulled into a garage shop for milk and bread and remembered, thank God, there were a few veggies in the fridge from the week before, herbs and a few lettuce leaves in the garden and store cupboard supplies to see us through.
Only recently, Ezio at the recently reopened La Bella Vita in Westport had served us a delicious version of vegetarian lasagna with layers of cooked aubergines in tomato sauce – a plan was taking shape! Hence the recipe below, a delicious lasagna-type dish without the carbs.
Parmagiana di Melanzane
What you need
- 2 large aubergines (around 700g)
- 700g good-quality tomato passata
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small bunch of basil
- 70g freshly grated Parmesan
- 250g good-quality cubed mozzarella
- Plain flour for dusting
- Half a tablespoon of olive oil
- 125ml neutral veg oil, like sunflower oil
What you do
Slice the aubergine thinly and place in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle the slices lightly with sea salt to absorb moisture and any bitterness and set aside for a while. To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a pan over moderate heat, add the chopped onion and sauté till translucent (not brown!). Add in the tomato passata, tear the basil leaves lightly and add them too. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, and then season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Allow to cool.
Rinse the salted aubergine slices under the cold tap, then pat dry with kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. Dust lightly with flour, shaking off the excess. Don’t dilly dally at this stage, or the aubergine will become claggy. Heat your vegetable oil in a pan then shallow fry the aubergine slices on each side, draining excess oil on a kitchen towel.
You are going for three layers of aubergine in total, with one third of the tomato sauce topped with cheese going on last. To start, spoon and spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce into a 25cm by 20cm baking tray, and line with a layer of aubergine slices, cheeses and tomato sauce. Add the next layer of the aubergine then sprinkle again with Parmesan cheese and cubes of mozzarella. Throw in a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and a few spoons of tomato sauce. Now add your last layer of aubergine, then spread the remaining tomato sauce over it, and top the lot with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Loosely cover the baking dish with tin foil and bake for around 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven of 180°C. After this, remove the foil and bake for approximately ten minutes more until the top is bubbling and golden. Rest for five minutes, then serve with a green salad and garlic bread.
The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.