I left work late last night , it was dark and miserable and by the time I made it to the supermarket the the vegetable shelves were depressingly empty, there were a few sad, wrinkled aubergine and a couple of peppers and something about them sitting there, unwanted at the end of the day inspired me to make something glorious and tasty out of them. Eggplant, or aubergine as we would say in Ireland, parmigiana is not a dish for anyone with an aversion to cheese, it is however hearty and delicious and has a promise of Summer in the bright red of the peppers and the tomato sauce. When cooked the top should be golden with bubbly melted parmesan and each layer you spoon out should pull strands of gooey melted mozzarella with it.
I always expect that the dish will take longer to prepare than it does and this always puts it out of my list for mid- week dinners however it actually takes only about an hour in total, 30 minutes to prep and 25 minutes to bake, so once you have the prep done and the dish in the oven you have just enough time to shower, wash of your make up or just climb in some comfy pyjamas while dinner bakes, or if you have a lot more energy than I do of an evening you can set the table, open the wine and light some candles as this meal is great for either a cosy dinner on the couch or a romantic meal for two.
This is also great for a casual dinner party, put the dish straight on to the table in the along with a green salad and lots of crusty bread or good Gluten free bread if you are celiac and let everyone helpthemselves.
Ingredients: serves four
3 medium aubergine
1 large onion
5 large cloves garlic
2 large red peppers
A good handful of basil, finely chopped
500 gram carton of tomato passata
3 150 gram packs of mozzarella, if you are feeling spendy use a good brand but I was being frugal and the €0.59 Tesco mozzarella was absolutely fine.
Parmesan cheese, to grate over the parmigiana
Preheat the oven to Gas 7/ 220/425f
Remove the stalk from the aubergine and slice in to 1 cm slices, lay the slices on a baking sheet lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt, leave for a few minutes while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
Peel and finely slice the onion and then finely slice the red peppers, peel the garlic.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onions and peppers, cook slowly as you want them to soften but not brown. Grate in the garlic and allow to cook over a low heat.
Take another sheet of kitchen paper and press over the aubergine to absorb the liquid that has been drawn out by the salt.
Cover the base of a wide bottomed pan with about 1 cm of olive oil, heat over a medium high heat. Add the aubergine slices, a few at a time as you don’t want to over crowd the pan, cook for a few moments untilt he base is golden and then turn the slices over. Once each slice is cooke place it on another tray lined with kitchen paper, to absorb the excess oil.
Continue this process, adding more oil to the pan as necessary until all the aubergine slices are cooked.
Heat the passata in a pot over a low heat, add the chopped basil and stir gently. Add salt and pepper to taste
Take an oven proof baking dish and spoon a layer of the tomato sauce on the base of the dish, add a layer of fried aubergine and then spoon over half of the onion and pepper mix, next layer will be the finely sliced mozzarella and then another layer of tomato sauce, repeat this process of aubergine, onion & pepper mix, mozzarella and sauce until you have one final layer of aubergine, cover this with the remaining sauce and then grate over a thick layer of parmesan cheese.