So when the lovely cookbook The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt arrived in the mail I was only too happy to start cooking from it. I mean it promised to fill my freezer and it is all about doing the prep work in advance and enjoying midweek dinners rather then being the headless chook most of us are when trying to complete these trendy 15 minute meals. The only catch is you need to be organised and prepared. Something I am somewhat good at and others times I envy everyone who manages to look like they have their stuff together.
The recipe I chose to make first from this book was the eggplant parmigiana. I'm not the biggest meat eater when I cook for one and I LOVE eggplant and tomatoes and mozzarella so this was a perfect option. The fragrant bunch of basil in the local greengrocer also caught my eye or should I say nose as the smell was incredible. Summer is coming!!
It's starts with thickly slicing the eggplants and roasting them in a hot oven with salt and olive oil while you cook your basic tomato sauce. Once they are both done it is time to start assembling. If you are making it ahead, wait until everything is cooled before assembling but if you are going to cook it straight away start assembling the roasted eggplant and the tomato sauce with generous amounts of fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese making sure you end with a cheese layer on top. Bake it in the oven until cooked though and bubbling at the sides. The recipe suggests to serve it with a green salad but I couldn't help but add some buttered pasta to mine too... I'm a carb lover what can I say.
The eggplant parmigiana from The Dinner Ladies will definitely start becoming a regular midweek dinner for me. Especially if I can make it over the weekend then just bung it in the oven midweek and dinner is done. So easy, so delicious and I think it's going to make the BEST filled baguettes for lunch the next day too. YUM.
The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood & Sophie Gilliatt is published by Murdoch Books, September 2016 (RRP $39.99)
eggplant parmigianarecipe adapted ever so slightly
from The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt
serves 4-6 as a side dish or 2-3 as a main
2 medium eggplants, about 1.25kg
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
3 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped (I used a pinch of dried thyme)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 very large handful basil leaves
150g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or torn roughly
50g parmesan cheese, grated
Make ahead: The whole dish can be assembled up to 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Bake it on the day you mean to serve it and serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
- Line two baking trays with baking paper. Cut the eggplants into slices about 1.5cm thick, sprinkle with salt, lay them on the baking trays and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If not making ahead, leave the oven on.
- Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for about 10-15 minutes until soft and sweet, stirring occasionally. When completely soft, add the tinned tomatoes, thyme and a splash of water and continue to cook gently, partially covered, for about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and taste for seasoning - you may need to add a pinch of salt and/or sugar if the tomatoes are particularly sharp. Set aside to cook.
- Now to start the assembly. In an oven proof dish, place a layer of eggplant on the bottom. Top with one-third of the tomato sauce, then half of the basil, a third of the mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan. Repeat until you have three layers of eggplant, finishing with mozzarella and an extra snowing of parmesan on top.
- Place in the centre of your oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling at the sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a mixed leaf salad and/or some buttered pasta and/or a crusty baguette.