I have friends who live on the Beara peninsula in the South of Ireland. They sat and watched the tail end of hurricane Ophelia bash at their windows and create havoc in the vegetable garden, ripping at the poly tunnel and breaking all their aubergine and courgette plants, beans and peas. As soon as the weather abated, Jane went to work re-planting and saving whatever possible - determined to utilise the last few weeks of the growing season. (This made me feel incredibly guilty for not growing more of my own food!)
She wanted to know what to do with “tonnes of aubergines and tomatoes,” that had been blown apart in the poly tunnel and I suggested the following.
I have to be completely honest here: I have never grown an Aubergine in my life but I am lucky enough to have friends and family that do and this is one of my favourite ways to cook them.
It takes 4 ingredients plus whatever cheese you have in the fridge and creates a rich, earthy delicious and nourishing dish, perfect as a main course with a herby couscous or as an accompaniment to basically anything.
Aubergine and Goat's Cheese
- 4 aubergines
- olive oil
- 250g goats cheese, sliced or crumbled, depending on the cheese
- grated cheddar or other well flavoured hard cheese
For the tomato sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1.5kg tomatoes, chopped (or you can use 4x400g tins plum tomatoes)
- 2 bay leaves, thyme and rosemary (whatever herbs you can get your hands on)
First, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large wide pan over a medium heat and add the onions, garlic and herbs. Sprinkle with a little salt, as this helps to bring out the sweet juices from the onions, place a lid on the pan and cook gently until soft. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a simmer. Then simmer briskly, stirring often for about half an hour, until the sauce is thick and rich. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. A lot of people put sugar in their tomato sauce but my trick is to add a good splash of balsamic vinegar. Try it.
Meanwhile, slice the aubergines lengthways into 3-5mm slices. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add a good slug of olive oil. Fry a batch of aubergine slices until golden brown on each side. Remove and set aside and repeat with the remaining slices, adding more oil to the pan before you fry each batch.
Preheat oven to 180c/350f/Gas Mark 4.
Lay a third of the aubergine slices over the bottom of an ovenproof dish, roughly 25 x 20 cm and at least 5cm deep. Cover with a third of the tomato sauce. Dot a third of the goats cheese over the sauce and then scatter the grated cheddar over that. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, so you have three layers in the dish.
Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. Serve with herby couscous and a big green garden salad.
- 300g couscous
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- A bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- A handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
- A handful of fresh dill leaves, chopped
- 75g lightly toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Saute until softened and with a slight colour, remove from the heat, then add the cumin and lemon zest.
Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions. I tend to put the required amount in a bowl and pour enough boiling water or vegetable stock over, to just cover and then quickly cover with cling film and leave to steam for 10 minutes. When cooked add the cooked onion and cumin, lemon juice, herbs, almonds and plenty of salt and pepper. Add more olive oil to lubricate. Taste and season according to your taste. You may like a bit more lemon juice too.