Guest Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

This is a recipe my girlfriend Rhey taught me to make (they’re American, hence the name!) They usually have pre-made tomato sauce on hand but I’ve found that a can of chopped tomatoes works fine for this recipe. Likewise the best seasoning to use for this is Old Bay seasoning (celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika) but it’s not easy to get hold of in the UK so I’ve substituted readily available spices into the recipe.

Thinly slice one aubergine and salt generously to sweat out the water. Leave for 30 minutes to an hour then rinse off the salt and pat dry. Meanwhile sautée 1 onion, diced, 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, 1 red pepper, sliced, and any other vegetables you have to hand, for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Add a can of chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tsp stock powder, 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, and 1 tsp smoked paprika, and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Make up an egg wash with 2 eggs, a splash of milk, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, a pinch of stock powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or almond flour crumbs, seasoned in the same way, for the coating. Dip the aubergine slices in the eggwash then coat with the crumbs. Coat a nonstick pan with a thin layer of oil, heat until bubbling, then fry the aubergine on either side until golden brown. In a greased pan, spread a layer of the vegetable mixture then top with a layer of aubergine slices. Sprinkle over a light coating of grated parmesan, then repeat, finishing with a final layer of vegetables. Sprinkle over any remaining parmesan and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes, until the parmesan is browned and bubbly.

Serves 3-4 depending on how many vegetables you use. Freezes well.

Variations:

  • You can also include a cup of minced meat at the sautéeing stage. If you do you’ll want to reduce the amount of salt and smoked paprika a little.
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Vegetarian Satay Hot Pot

Not very authentic, but a quick, filling meal that can be adapted to any vegetables you have in the fridge. I used a pre-made satay hot pot base for this, but there are recipes online for making the base from scratch too if you’d prefer. Make sure all your vegetables are chopped before you start cooking, since the total cooking time is very short.

Boil 1 nest vermicelli noodles and a small strip of dried kelp, very finely sliced, for 3-4 minutes, then strain and set aside in the saucepan. Lightly beat 1 egg with 1/2 tsp soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan and fry the beaten egg until just cooked, then remove and cut into 1cm wide strips. Bring the oil back up to temperature then add 1/2 onion and 2 cloves garlic, both finely diced, and fry until translucent. Add about 3 inches plantain, a handful of aubergine and a handful of red pepper, all sliced as thinly as possible. Also finely slice a bulb of pak choi, adding the stems to the pan and setting the leaves aside. Fry the vegetables for 2-3 minutes until softened. Make up 2 cups of satay hot pot base with 1 generous tbsp satay hot pot base and boiling water. Top the noodles with the egg, cooked vegetables and pak choi leaves then pour over the hot pot base. Bring to the boil, allow to cool a little, and serve.

Serves 2-3

Variations:

  • The kelp is optional, although it’s a good ingredient to have in the cupboard as a little goes a long way and it keeps for years. You can buy it from health food stores, but if you have an Asian supermarket nearby it’s likely to be cheaper there. I use sheets of prophase kelp.
  • You can substitute any vegetables for this – any soft vegetables such as spinach or mushroom should be added right at the end, any harder vegetables such as sweet potato or brussels sprouts should be fried beforehand to make sure they’re cooked through.
  • To make the dish vegan, substitute the egg for tofu strips marinaded in soy sauce for a few hours then lightly fried.

 

 

Vegan Paella

The biggest challenge when it comes to adapting paella to be vegan is finding an acceptable substitute for chorizo, which I think is the single ingredient which gives paella its most characteristic flavour. I’ve experimented with soya chunks and aubergine as the substitute, so both methods are listed here. Alternatively you could leave them out and just add an extra teaspoon or two of smoked paprika to the rice.

This recipe serves 3, or 2 generously.

Aubergine: cut 1 small aubergine into inch-thick slices and layer with 1-2 tsp salt. Leave to draw out the moisture for 1-2 hours, then rinse the slices off, pat dry with kitchen paper and cut into cubes. Mix 2 tsp smoked paprika into 2 tbsp oil and coat the aubergine. Leave for another 2-3 hours or overnight to marinade. While you’re cooking the paella, place the aubergine cubes on a foil-lined tray and cook under the grill for 15-20 minutes, turning once, or until well cooked. Stir into the paella towards the end of the cooking time.

Soya chunks: rehydrate 1/2 cup soya chunks with boiling water and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Drain, pat dry with kitchen paper, then marinade and grill the soya chunks as with the aubergine.

In a large lidded saucepan, preferably non-stick, fry 1 small leek, sliced and 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced, until beginning to caramelise. Add 1/2 cup long or short grain rice, 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks, 1-2 teaspoons turmeric and 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (if you don’t have time to pre-marinade the soya chunks/aubergine, add them now with an extra tbsp smoked paprika), and stir to coat the rice. Pour over 1 cup hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning over occasionally,  or until the rice is almost cooked (you may have to add a little extra water if the paella starts to look dry). Then add 3-4 small mushrooms, quartered, 1/2 cup peas and the marinaded aubergine or soya chunks, if using. Cover again and cook for a further 5-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through.

Variations:

  • Red or white onion can be used instead of the leek.
  • Other vegetables to add in with the rice: chunks of sweet potato, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of red cabbage, cubed raw beetroot or any other root vegetable
  • Other vegetables to add in with the peas and mushrooms: sweetcorn, halved black olives, spinach, kale
  • If you want to use chorizo, add it in a few minutes before the rice and leave out the smoked paprika (or add just a teaspoon, to taste). Meats such as fish or chicken are best cooked first, removed from the pan, and added in again towards the end of the cooking time to prevent overcooking. Cooked frozen prawns should be added in with the peas.

Sticky Chinese Vegetables

Adapted from a recipe for squirrel fish in an old Chinese cookbook. Fairly quick and simple once you get the hang of the technique.

In a small bowl, mix 1 heaped tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp tomato ketchup, and 2 tbsp fruit juice (I used pomegranate juice because it’s what I happened to have in the fridge – apple, orange, pineapple, cranberry etc should be fine as well. If using lemon or lime juice substitute 1 tbsp fruit juice with water). In another small bowl slake 1/4 tsp cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water to form a paste. Slice as thinly as possible 1-2 inches aubergine, 2 inches plantain, 1/4 bell pepper, a handful of red cabbage, a handful of frozen peas and 2 mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan or wok above a high heat until a haze forms above the oil, then add all the vegetables. They should begin to sizzle immediately. Fry, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes or until the cabbage has softened and the plantain is beginning to caramelise. Stir in the sauce mixture, then stir the cornflour paste and add it to the pan. The sauce should thicken, making the vegetables look glossy. Take off the heat and serve in wraps or with rice.

Serves 1 or 2 with sides

Variations:

  • I’ve tried this with sweet potato, but it needs to be cooked for a few more minutes than the rest of the vegetables to make sure it’s softened. Onion would probably need the same treatment too.
  • Goes very well with smoked mackerel.

Vegetable Ramen

Adapted from a Wagamama recipe.

In generous amounts of oil, fry 2 inches aubergine, thinly sliced; equal volume sweet potato, thinly sliced; 1/4 yellow pepper, thinly sliced; 1/3 green pepper, thinly sliced; 2 florets broccoli, thinly sliced. Once softened, take off heat, add 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, a pinch of chilli flakes and set aside to marinate. Cover 1 portion udon noodles in boiling water and cook at a rolling boil for 6-7 minutes or until soft to the bite. In a bowl mix 1 tsp miso paste and 1/2 tsp vegetable stock with a little boiling water. Fill the bowl half full, making sure the paste is well mixed. Add the noodles to the broth, followed by the vegetables.

Serves 1 – vegetables can be doubled up and the spare portion kept in the fridge for a few days

Variations:

  • Really any vegetables can be used for this. The harder the vegetable, the thinner it will need to be sliced and the longer it will take to cook.
  • Will also work with instant noodles