Prep: 40 min // Bake: 30 min
Summer is still officially on so I'll try to post some more summer dishes in the next few days as there's plenty of flavoursome seasonal veggies waiting for us out there. Aubergines (or eggplants; nevermind any difference) is one of my favourites. I particularly like this dish as it reminds me of the Greek popular, Moussaka, just a lighter and more vegetarian version.
The recipe gives you a good quantity for 6 people, making this dish the perfect comforting traybake for treating a big family or guests. Our family also loves this dish as it's simple, cheesy and packed with summer flavours and herbs from the Meditteranean. What's more, with its pizza looks when baked, it's easy to cheat your 'eating nothing but pizza' toddler ;-)
Need more reasons to get your hands dirty with this? Here is a couple: First, it is the best way to introduce aubergine to people that are not keen on it, like my wife and most of the kids I know. A pure success story as my wife developed an intimate relationship with aubergines after this dish was served home. Moreover, it consists of lower calories, fats and sodium; mozzarella is one of the healthiest cheeses out there.
When it comes to Italian cooking (or even any recipe using chopped tomatoes), I recommend treating yourself to some good quality Italian chopped tomatoes from your local Italian deli. Worst case there is no Italian deli around, look out for this 'Mutti' brand in mainstream supermarkets (like Ocado, Waitrose etc) or order from Amazon (affiliate link). Such rich flavour and freshness packed in a tin, definitely worth spending a few more pennies for this one.
Nonstick pan with lid
Rectangular Oven Dish (Pyrex or other ceramic approx 30 x 22 cm)
Ingredients (6 portions)
4 Aubergines (can be also done with zucchinis)
150g mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cans (400g ea.) chopped tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 bay leaves
100g grated parmesan (and/or Gruyere)
1 garlic clove, crashed
1 tbsp white or red vinegar
2 tbsp Fresh or dried oregano
Salt & pepper
Cook the aubergines: remove the stalks, slice them up into less than 1cm thick slices, drizzle them with olive oil, salt, pepper and some oregano and grill them until lightly charred. Flip sides and grill again (usually takes around 5 mins per side) – you may have to do them in batches, as they probably won’t all fit into your baking tray in one go.
Prepare the sauce: while aubergines are grilling, drizzle some olive oil into a large pan on medium heat. Add the onion with some pepper and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the onion is soft. Add the mushrooms, oragano and garlic and saute until mushrooms are softened. Finally, pour the chopped tomatoes, the bay leaves and a tsp of sugar into the mixture. Give it a good stir, then put a lid on the pan and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.
When the tomato sauce is reduced and sweet enough (adjust by adding sugar or honey to your taste), season it with freshly ground pepper, add the wine vinegar and the chopped basil leaves and cook for another minute. Don’t forget to remove and discard the bay leaves.
Start assembling: Scoop 2 large spoonfuls of tomato sauce and spread them in the bottom of the oven dish. Lay a layer of aubergines, cover with a layer of tomato sauce followed by a thin scattering of Parmesan/Gruyere. Repeat the layering one more time or until you’ve used all the ingredients up, finishing with a little sauce and another good sprinkle of Parmesan.
Using your hands, tore or grate mozzarella and spread it on top, then bake it at 190c (170c fan) for 30 mins or until the mozzarella is slightly brown.
If you want to add more taste and texture on the top, mix the grated mozzarella with breadcrumbs, lemon zest and thinly chopped herbs (I like chives).