My adopted greenhouse is in full swing. Tomatoes, cucumbers (performing again after a month off), peppers, basil. The aubergine plants are sending up new shoots with flowers, whilst producing plenty of long lozenges of amythest-coloured fruits, dangling like Edwardian earrings.
I have been holding back picking, waiting for 5 or 6 to ripen together so that I could make a Melanzane Parmigiana. This is a kind of lasagne, but instead of pasta you use thin aubergine slices.
I think the last time I’d tried it was 15 years ago, when working in New York. The restaurant had fashioned their version into a brick, that was served in wedges, like a terrine. It was so delicious. Not being able to find a recipe for this online, I decided to see if I could recreate it.
I followed an online recipe (more or less) for melanzane but, instead of layering all in a dish, I first used half the pre-fried aubergine slices to line an oiled tin, overlapping and pressing gently. Then layered the rest with a reduced tomato sauce (made from garlic, sage, thyme, chopped tomatoes, sugar and balsamic vinegar), mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and basil, and then the same repeated. I pressed it together with a final layer of aubergine, so no gaps, then baked for 30 minutes.
After baking, I lay two bits of toast on top for a few minutes to soak up the excess escaped liquid before turning it out onto a dish. I was rather pleased with the result, and next time I’ll have the confidence to use a prettier serving plate. It elicited a few “ooo”s when sliced and we had it with roast chicken, runner beans and perfectly ripe and oh-so very tasty Black Russian tomatoes (a large heritage variety, with mahogany tinges).