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Whatever you call them – I love ’em. Be it Aubergines in the UK, Eggplant in the USA or Melanzane in Italy. One of the dishes that i am very fond of is “Aubergine Parmigiana”. The original dish calls for the aubergines to be floured and fried in oil multiple times until softened and brown. One of the characteristics of aubergines is that it soaks up the flavours of what it is cooked with like a sponge and enhances it. Sadly that is also it’s downfall, as if you fry them in oil to soften them they soak up oil like a sponge.
Lots of people also salt aubergines – let me tell you, for once and for all – this is NOT NECESSARY.
So, if we aren’t going to drown them in oil or salt them, how are we going to make them edible? How do we change them from their hard bulbous thick skinned selves to soft unctuousness that will soak up all the flavours that they are cooked with? Answer – We pierce them with a knife and microwave them which cooks them from the inside and they become soft and ready to incorporate into any dish with ease and without the oil.
Second issue – How do we make this dish a much more healthy version that the original? My solution was to add some kale, which goes really well and means that you do not have to add an “external” veggie if you are lazy like me.
The third issue with this dish is how do we create a really thick plant-based cheese sauce that will really coat the aubergines? To do this, I came up with a new cheese sauce recipe that borrows some things from my last version (already blogged) but which gives a much thicker consistency.
Wash and pierce the aubergines in a few places with the point of a sharp knife. Microwave (covered ideally) for 10-15 minutes (for a 600w Microwave oven) until they are somewhat shrivelled and soft. Be careful as they will be hot to handle. Allow to cool or plunge in a bowl of cold water. Once cooled. remove the stalk end and slice into rings with a sharp knife.
Open the bag of kale an inch or so and place the bag into the microwave and cook on high for 2 minutes. Remove the kale from the bag and drain.
Make the cheese sauce but into the blender add the plant milk and the extra flour. It should make a rich, thick and creamy sauce.
Assemble – Place a layer of the drained cooked kale into an ovenproof dish and a then a layer of aubergines, top with a thin layer of the cheese sauce, repeat finishing off with a generous layer of the cheese sauce and sprinkle over the parmesan.
Bake in a moderate oven (190c) for about 20 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling.
Serve on it’s own or with some crusty bread and a salad.