This post is a tribute to my cousin Nick.
I’m not quite sure what he would make of this blog post as Nick liked to tease me about my vegetarian eating habits. In a typically Australian-obsessed-with-meat kind of way. Nick lived in Australia and I resided in England so we didn’t meet very often and our discussions about food weren’t actually very frequent. But, as we grew older, they did become a compulsory part of our Australian-English banter.
So, many moons ago, I was pleasantly surprised when Nick rustled up a Melanzane Parmigiana for me. He served it as part of a larger dinner party he was hosting. I can’t really remember much about the evening (who was there, what everyone else ate, what Australian-type-chit-chat we had…). I DO remember wooden paneling on the wall (?!) and this wonderfully rich and flavoursome dish that had a golden brown cheese topping. Mmmm ‘yummo’.
Whilst I enjoyed this dish at the time, it is only now that I realise how much time and effort Nick must have put into making the blinking thing! Gee, it’s not something that you can quickly throw together. I’ve tried to come up with a few short cuts (like batch grilling the aubergine) and I’ve added some olives to please my olive obsessed daughter (as I mentioned here) but otherwise it still resembles that Melanzane Parmigiana that I fondly remember.
Thank you Nick. I will forever treasure these memories xxx
- 2 aubergines
- Salt (for salting the aubergines)
- 2-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 2 tins good quality chopped tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped finely
- 1 big handful of pitted olives, sliced
- 250g fresh mozzarella
- 50g vegetarian parmesan style cheese
- Slice the aubergines into thin rounds, approx 1/2 cm thick (this is so they will cook relatively quickly and evenly).
- Arrange a layer of the aubergines in a colander and sprinkle over a thin layer of salt. Repeat this with all of the aubergine slices and then leave to drain for up to one hour. You should see droplets start to form on the surface of the aubergine as the salt draws out the moisture.
- Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce by frying the onion for a few minutes in 2tbsp of the olive oil. You are aiming to soften but not brown the onion.
- Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
- Stir in both tins of tomatoes and the sliced olives. Bring to the boil and leave the tomatoes to simmer, uncovered for around 30 minutes. The tomatoes should break down and thicken into a flavoursome sauce,
- After an hour of salting, thoroughly rinse the aubergine slices to remove the excess salt. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Preheat the grill to a medium heat. Place the aubergine slices onto a tray for grilling. Brush each one of the aubergine slices with oil. You will probably have to do two batches (or more, depending on the size of your grill). Grill each side of the aubergine for 5-10 minutes until they are golden brown and cooked through. Keep a watchful eye over them because they can burn quite quickly.
- Once you have all the aubergine slices cooked and the tomato sauce ready, slice or rip up the mozzarella. You can start to layer up the melanzane parmigiana.
- To do so, use a third of the aubergine slices to create a layer on the bottom of the ceramic or oven dish. Cover with a third of the tomato sauce and then a third of the mozzarella slices. Grate a layer of parmesan style cheese over the whole dish (see photo). Repeat this for two more layers, finishing with a generous layer of the parmesan hard cheese.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes. The aubergine should be soft if you stick a skewer in and the top should be golden brown and irresistible! We ate this with crusty bread.