This famous Italian dish of baked aubergine, mozzarella and tomatoes is delicious, vegetarian – and low in carbs
- 1 kg (2 ½ lb) large aubergines
- Olive oil for cooking
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 kg (2 ½ lb) ripe tomatoes, preferably plum, peeled and chopped (see top tip)
- 300 g (10 oz) mozzarella cheese
- 60-75 g (2-3 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 or 4 large fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the aubergines into thickish slices. Sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander, preferably overnight, to draw out the excess water. Rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Heat enough light olive oil for shallow-frying in a pan over a medium-high heat, and add the aubergine slices in a single layer. Shallow fry on both sides for a few minutes until the slices are starting to brown slightly (make sure that the oil is hot before adding the aubergines to the pan, so they do not absorb too much oil). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, preheat the over to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Make a tomato sauce by heating a little oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and transparent, before adding the tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook down for 10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken up and reduced to a pulpy sauce.
As soon as the sauce is ready, arrange the alternate layers of aubergines, tomato sauce, slices of mozzarella and Parmesan in a greased baking dish. Make sure that you press down the ingredients well, so that you end up with compacted layers in the finished dish. Finish off with a layer of sauce ad a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the ingredients to set slightly, then cut into individual portions while still in the dish. Carefully slide out onto serving plates using a spatula or egg slice, and serve hot.
Salting the aubergines before cooking them is the key to success ? otherwise you will end up with a watery dish that falls apart when sliced. It is also important to press each layer down well when you are assembling the ingredients for baking. Peeling tomatoes It is not such an onerous tasksimply score the skin slightly with a sharp knife, blanch in boiling for 10 seconds or so until the skin starts to soften and split, then refresh in cold water. This makes it far easier to use a sharp knife to peel away the skin.