By: Bernice HurstServes: 4
The Hurst family version of this recipe has been much adapted over the years from the original way my mother was shown it by an Italian neighbour in New York City. She, in turn, got it from her mother and grandmother. By that time, it was far removed from its Italian village origins so I make no claims on authenticity. All I can say is that it is a firm favourite in our household whether served hot with salad and garlic bread (plus pasta if my mother is doing the cooking) or cold on a chunk of French bread for lunch the next day. Back when I was growing up in New York, eggplant parmesan heroes were also exceptionally popular – in retrospect, I would say it was one of the non-fast food, mass-manufactured contributors to the developments of overeating habits. It was just too good to pass up.
The tomato sauce is entirely a matter of personal taste – another of my mother’s quirks is to use a meat sauce or one with teeny tiny meatballs and chunks of Italian sausage.
In the unlikely and somewhat blasphemous event that you want to make the dish moderately less fattening, don’t egg and crumb the aubergine but either sauté or oven fry naked slices. Whatever you do, be sure to drain the cooked aubergine well to get rid of the surplus oil that it will inevitably soak up.
2 medium aubergines, thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp water
75g breadcrumbs, as small as possible
400g fresh mozzarella, grated or crumbled
50g parmesan, grated
450g tin chopped tomatoes
500g carton passata (or tomato sauce or purée)
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
1 tsp each dried oregano, basil, parsley
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
1 small dried chilli, crumbled (optional)
1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a pan, mix well, cover and simmer gently on a low light for as long as you can spare. Cool slightly before using to assemble the dish.
2. Meanwhile, mix the eggs with salt, pepper and water. Dip in the aubergine slices, lift out and coat with breadcrumbs, shaking off any loose surplus.
3. Heat the oil on two flat baking trays in a preheated oven (200C, Gas 6). Arrange the aubergine slices in the hot oil and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the aubergine and cook for another 10 minutes. The slices should be nicely browned and crispy; if they are not, give them a few minutes longer. When they are done, remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
4. When you are ready to assemble the dish, spread some tomato sauce in the base of a shallow oval or rectangular baking pan. Arrange a layer of aubergine topped by a sprinkling of mozzarella and more sauce. Repeat the layers until everything is used up, ending with sauce. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.
5. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake in a preheated oven (175C, Gas 4) for 45 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is bubbling beautifully. Depending on the depth of your dish, this may take a little bit longer.
6. Serve as described above.
© Recipe copyright 2003 Bernice Hurst