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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Tomato Sauce

I use this recipe for anything from lasagne to pizza. If you don’t have a blender (or don’t feel like washing up), simply chop the onion up more finely, add a little less water, and use your spoon to mash up any large chunks of tomato from the can.

Finely chop 1 small red onion and 2-3 cloves garlic. Heat a generous spoonful of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until they are golden brown. Add 1 400g can chopped tomatoes then refill the can with water and add that in too. Stir in a heaped teaspoon of vegetable stock and a generous sprinkle of herbs of your choice (I use oregano and thyme). Bring to the boil then reduce to a medium heat and bubble for 15-20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (white is fine) and 1 teaspoon soy or Worchester sauce. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little, then blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. If your sauce is too thin, stir in a spoonful of plain flour and cook for an extra 3-4 minutes.

To use as a pizza sauce, omit the can of water.

Freezes well, or lasts for a few days in the fridge.

Sweet chickpea tagine

How much this constitutes a tagine I’m not sure given how many ingredients I substituted from the original recipe, which was for a fish tagine. Serves 3 with bulgar wheat or naan, or 2 alone; reheats well the next day.

Melt ~1 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and caramelise 3-4 stalks celery, diced, and 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped. Add 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and a pinch of chilli flakes to taste, coating the celery and garlic thoroughly. Add 1/2 plantain, 1 apple, 1/2 courgette and 1/2 mango, all diced into 1 cm cubes and cook, stirring continuously, until the pan begins to smoke. Add 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1/2 can water and 1 tsp stock powder. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low heat, cover, and leave for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has reduced. If the tagine is still a little sour, add 1 tsp brown sugar. Stir in 1 400g can chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes, then serve.

Kidney bean and soya chilli

Soya (TVP) chunks aren’t particularly cheap or easy to get hold of, which is a shame because they’re a fantastic ingredient – shelf stable, adaptable, and really easy to cook (I’m lucky enough to have a cheap supply  close to home). If you don’t have access to soya chunks you can use a meat of your choice, quorn, or firm tofu.

I owe it to my friend Sam for revealing the secret ingredients of a really good chilli – instant coffee and cocoa powder.

Thoroughly rinse 1 400g can kidney beans (you can soak them in water with a few spoonfuls of baking soda to reduce problems with wind). Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you have an oven safe saucepan or stovetop safe casserole dish, use that for cooking – if not, cook in a saucepan and transfer to a casserole dish. Fry 1/2 onion, sliced, and 2 large cloves garlic, sliced, in a spoonful of oil until golden. While the onion is cooking, rehydrate half a cup of soya chunks using boiling water, leaving to soak while you cook the vegetables. Add to the dish 1 small sweet potato, diced into 1cm chunks, and 1/4 red cabbage, also diced. Once the sweet potato is beginning to brown, drain off the soya chunks and kidney beans and add them to the dish with 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp instant coffee powder, 1 tsp cocoa powder and a pinch of chilli flakes. Refill the tomato can with hot water and stir in 1 tsp stock powder; pour about half into the chilli and leave the rest aside in case you need it later. Cover the casserole dish (use foil if you don’t have a lid) and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, adding more stock if needed, until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce and the soya chunks are soft to the bite. Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, stir in half a cup of sweetcorn.

Makes 3 portions, keeps in the fridge for a few days. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Carrot and Lentil Broth

Adapted from a Good Food recipe. Particularly good with a fried egg on top, the yolk broken into the broth. Serves 2.

Fry 1/2 onion, diced, and 2 medium carrots, diced, in a little oil until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add 1/2 400g can chopped tomatoes, 1 pint vegetable stock, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp thyme, two bay leaves and 1/3 cup puy lentils, rinsed. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the carrot is beginning to soften. Add 4 mushrooms, quartered, and a handful of broccoli florets cut into bite-sized pieces, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the broccoli is soft. Add a dash of soy sauce to taste. Serve with bread.

Variations:

  • Instead of garlic powder, use one or two cloves of garlic, thinly sliced; cook them with the onion
  • Any kind of lentil will work in this recipe
  • Other root vegetables can be prepared and cooked with the carrot; other soft vegetables can be cooked with the mushrooms and broccoli. The original recipe used cabbage.

Vegan Sunshine Mince

I recreated this recipe from things that needed using up in the fridge and a very vague memory of the original sunshine mince my mother used to make. The main features (if I remember correctly) were mince, grated carrot, chickpeas and sultanas – the rest can be whatever needs using up at the back of the fridge.

Rehydrate 1/2 cup soya mince in 2 cups boiling water. Soak a hand-sized sheet of dried kelp in water until soft enough to cut into 1 inch squares. Gently fry 1/2 red onion, finely sliced, and 1 clove garlic, finely chopped until translucent; then add the soya mince and water, kelp, 3-4 inches plantain, diced, a large tomato, diced, 3 mushrooms, diced, 1/2 carrot, grated, 1/2 of a 400g can of chickpeas, drained, a handful of raisins or sultanas, and 1 tsp miso paste (or 1 tsp stock powder and 1 tsp soy sauce). Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the kelp is soft and the tomato has disintegrated. Add 1 tsp smoked paprika and generous cracked paper. Serves 2 with couscous.

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.