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This I invented off the top of my head one day, after staring into the depths of the fridge. I am sure that there are many recipes for Aubergine Parmiggiano which are similar, but this is mine own, sprung full blown from the head of Zeus, as it were. Anyway, Ignatz claims not to like Parmesan (I shall try him on the fresh stuff) and I don't want a stringy cheese for the cheddar here. The mozzarrella makes the cheesey topping marvellously chewy and mmmm. The aubergines are soft, sweet, tender and ot at all oily for some reason. The amount of oil used to fry them in is the reason for the very basic tomato sauce used - you really don't need any oil for that at all. Tanais will sometimes sprinkle a layer of grated celery in between the mushrooms and tomato sauce when I'm not looking - I'm not sure about that. This is my version - it's one of the few things I have started out with and never changed the recipe on. This amount serves two as a very good dinner and lunch left over, three as a good diner, four if you have lot's of bread and maybe a starter.
2-3 large aubergines lots of mushrooms 6 oz [170 grams] hard cheese (any cheddar mousetrap will do ;--) ) one medium (?8 oz) [?220 grams] mozzarrella cheese one tin tomatoes half a jar of double-thick tomato puree ground bay leaves pepper olive oil (no substitutes accepted, extra virgin preferred)
pans - one large frying pan, one medium saucepan, one oven dish rather like a lasagne dish.
1. Slice the mushrooms thinly
2. grate the cheddar.
3. Slice the aubergines thickly, lengthwise, no thinner than 1/4 inch [6 mm] and no thicker than 1/2 inch [12 mm]. I'm told you can salt them and leave them for half an hour to stop them absorbing oil, but I never bother.
4. Fry the aubergine slices in olive oil till brown and soft - they should be entirely limp, not at all green, or they will be bitter - try not to let hem get actually black, just a nice, rich dark brown. You will need to keep adding oil, don't let it smoke, it may spit a little. The slices should sizzle as you add them.
5. Meanwhile put the tomatoes, puree, lots of black pepper and some ground bay leaves together in a pan over a medium heat. Stir well, don't let it stick, and reduce to a thick, jammy consistency. Fresh basil would probably go well here. This is also a good time to preheat the oven to 200 C [400 F] (or 180 C [350 F] for a fan oven).
6. When the aubergines and sauce are ready, put a layer of aubergine slices in the bottom of the oven dish. Cover with half of the mushrooms and put half the tomato sauce on top and spread out. Sprinkle a little grated cheese over this. Continue with another layer of aubergine slices, mushrooms, sauce and a little sprinkle of cheese. Finish with a last layer of aubergines (so it goes A, M, TS, C, A, M, TS, C, A). You can start the layering as soon as you have enough aubergine slices and the sauce and cook the rest of the slices as you go along, to save time.
7. Slice the mozzarrella thickly and lay out on top of the last aubergine layer. Dump the rest of the grated cheese on top - it should be a thick, cheesey layer.
8. Cook for about 25 minutes, until brown and bubbling on top.
9. Serve with lots of wholemeal bread to mop up the sauce. For serving, it helps to cut the bake into portion in the pan, and lift it out, as otherwise the aubergine slices can pull about a bit. Enjoy.
VR: Mary Merrytail RL: Mary Branscombe e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org