I’ve made the traditional version of this dish so many times using so much cheese. It amazes me that when I simply leave the cheese out, rather than trying to substitute it, the veggies stand out strongly. You can really taste the richness of the tomatoes and, to be honest, I prefer this version to the traditional one! Whereas traditionally the eggplants (aubergine) are fried, here we get a fantastic result by grilling them and, as you can imagine, with only a fraction of the oil. Although this is delicious to eat straight out of the oven, it freezes well too. extra virgin olive oil, for greasing.
4 eggplants (aubergine) (about 2 kg in total)
3 cups (750 ml) tomato basil sauce
large handful (1 cup) basil leaves
1 cup (70 g) homemade breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 5 cm deep, 20 cm × 28 cm ovenproof baking dish with a little olive oil. Use a sharp knife to remove the green end of the eggplants, then cut each eggplant lengthways into 1 cm thick slices.
Preheat a barbecue or grill plate on high. Cook the eggplant slices for 3 minutes each side or until grill marks are visible and the eggplant starts to brown (see tip).
To assemble, spread a fifth of the tomato sauce over the base of the prepared baking dish, then tear 4–5 basil leaves over the sauce. Top with a fifth of the eggplant slices (they don’t need to overlap but try not to have big gaps). Spread another fifth of the tomato sauce over the eggplant, followed by some more torn basil leaves, a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Repeat the layering, finishing with a layer of eggplant, tomato sauce, basil and finally breadcrumbs. Drizzle with the olive oil and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.
Set aside for 10 minutes before serving. It will go beautifully with any of the salads elsewhere in this book.
TIP: You can also cook the eggplant slices in a 200°C oven. Place on 2 baking trays and bake for about 10 minutes each side or until browned.
TIP: This dish will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, covered, or can be frozen for up to 2 months, but be sure to portion before freezing.
Extract from SuperNatural by Tobie Puttock, photography by Julie Renouf, published by Penguin Random House Books on sale now.