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.

 

 

Mother’s potato cake

Adapted from a recipe in an Oregon cookbook given to me by my friend Rebecca. There’s no explanation given as to why it’s “mother’s” potato cake…

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel and dice 1 medium potato and boil in lightly salted water for 15 minutes or until well cooked. Drain, rinse with cold water, and mash thoroughly. Pack 1 cup with the mashed potato and eat the rest while you make the cake. Cream together 2/3 cup sugar and 75g (1/3 cup) butter, then mix in 2 eggs. Having all the ingredients at room temperature helps to prevent curdling. Add the mashed potato, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1/4 cup milk, stirring thoroughly. Sift into another bowl 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp salt. Gently blend the wet and dry ingredients, then pour into a greased cake pan and bake for 40 minutes to an hour, until cooked through but still slightly squidgy.

Keeps in an airtight container for a few days. You can also use instant mashed potato.

Calas

Calas, or rice beignets, are a traditional dish from New Orleans and an interesting way to use up leftover cooked rice. The frying oil, once cool, can be passed through a fine sieve and used up in cooking or, if it’s not too dark and bitty, used again for deep frying.

Mix together 1 cup cooked white rice, 3 tbsp plain flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a sprinkle of ground cardamom. Add an egg and mix in thoroughly. Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a steep sided frying pan over a medium heat. Test the heat of the oil with a few grains of the mixture – it should sizzle but not spit. Take a heaped spoonful of the mixture, smooth down the top, then slide off the spoon into the oil with your finger. Cook the calas for 3-4 minutes on either side or until brown and crispy on the outside. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on kitchen paper to drain. Sprinkle over icing sugar and eat hot.

Serves 2 as a snack.

Shakshouka

Adapted from a Riverford Farms recipe; the dish itself is of North African origin. Serves one, but is easily scaled; if you’re cooking for more than one person make a well for each egg (you’ll need to use a steep sided frying pan or a large saucepan). From start to finish, this recipe for shouldn’t take more than half an hour for one person.

In a small saucepan, fry in oil or butter over a high heat 1/2 onion, thickly sliced, for about five minutes or until softened. Then add 2/3 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and 1/2 plantain, cubed and 1 clove garlic, sliced and continue to fry until the pepper is soft. Add 1/3 cup chopped tomatoes (about 1/3 of a 400g tin), 1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin, and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Add a little brown sugar if it is still sharp. Make a well in the vegetable mixture and crack an egg into it. Cover and simmer for five minutes, or until the egg has set. Season with black pepper before serving.

 

Eggy Buckwheat Salad

Boil 1/3 cup raw buckwheat groats and 1-2 bay leaves in water for 5-10 minutes, until softened. Strain and remove the bay leaves. Meanwhile, mix together 1 medium carrot, grated, 1/3 plantain, diced, a large handful of sweetcorn. Separate 1 egg and mix the yolk into the hot buckwheat. Fry the white in a little oil, then slice and mix into the buckwheat along with the rest of the ingredients and a dash (about 1/2 tsp) soy sauce.

Serves 1.

Variations:

  • Cous cous can be used instead of buckwheat. Pour 2/3 cup boiling water over 1/3 cup cous cous, cover, and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  • Any vegetables which can be eaten raw can be substituted into this recipe – thinly sliced or grated courgette, sliced olives, mushrooms, fresh peas, etc.
  • The white can be left out and used to make meringues or added to pancakes later
  • I haven’t tried this, but the plantain could probably be substituted for unripe (green) banana if plantains aren’t available