We are back from Rome. It was a good 10C warmer than London so, although not steamy, was a nice change. We are back now, of course, to eye-wateringly cold winds and zero temperatures.
I’ll post more about Rome later. Probably. It was good. Cobbled streets are pretty but an arse on the knees, innit.
I’ve spent today mostly on the sofa, recovering from this morning’s efforts at the supermarket. Post-Easter trolley shuffling appeared to be a popular morning past-time. BORING. We also filled the car with fuel. Well, the boyfriend did. He put £67.86 of diesel in the car. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY HE DIDN’T JUST PUT £68.00 in. Like a normal.
I’m mostly over the rage now. He’s been cooking in the kitchen for hours, it’s been smelling good. He posts the process below, for your reading pleasure.
I’ve totally got jet lag. Italy’s a whole hour ahead you know.
So. At a restaurant in Italy, the girlfriend had a parmigiana and it was excellent. “Oh, I can cook that”, I said. And so, as a man of my word (when it suits), here’s my latest stab.
What I couldn’t remember, of course, is which recipe I used last time (aka the only time) I made it successfully. A quick search online and I went for Antonio Carluccio’s version, albeit substituting mozzarella for fontina, which Sainsbury’s thoughtlessly neglects to stock.
I made 3/4 of the below, and it was good for 4 very generous portions.
- 4 large aubergines
- flour for coating
- 4 eggs
- Lots of extra virgin olive oil
- 300g fontina (or mozzarella) cheese
- 115g parmesan
- Salt & pepper
And for the tomato sauce:
- 3 tins peeled plum tomatoes (you could prob get away with 4 – perhaps I over-reduced but it felt a bit mean)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- half a teaspoon of sugar
- 10 fresh basil leaves
The aubergines I sliced per instructions, lengthways and probably just under 1cm thick (on average, let’s not pretend they were unifom or anything). I left the skin on after seeing my laziness justified with “it adds to the texture of the dish” while doing my research. They then need salting, which I did as above, coating one side then the next, then leaving for about 40 minutes before washing quite thoroughly in a colander and (important!) squeezing the excess water out before drying thoroughly.
Actually, they *don’t* need salting. Modern aubergines cook fine without it, but the consensus in the few recipes I read was that salting makes the aubergine less sloppy, if not really less bitter as they’re bred not to be these days. But if you *do* salt them, for heaven’s sake, wash the salt off. I remembered this time but my previous guests weren’t so lucky…
While the aubergines are perspiring, get started on the sauce. The recipe says “make your tomato sauce in the usual way”. Thanks, Antonio. I made the ultra-simple one implied by his ingredients; but I did have to add sugar to calm the, shall we say, austerity of the bare tomato and garlic mix. It simmers away for as long as you need, but make sure you give it at least an hour. Add the torn basil leaves right at the end of the cooking process (you can probably add rather more than they say – I couldn’t taste it at all).
While the sauce is cooking, you need to brown the aubergine. Coat the (dried) slices in flour, then seasoned, beaten egg (seems the wrong way round but hey, it did the job), then fry in batches.
As any fule kno, aubergine is used by oil companies to soak up spills, so be prepared to turn a blind eye to the artery-clogging quantities of oil you have to top up the pan with each time. Though if you’ve salted & squeezed, it limits the amount of grease sucked up. To a point.
This is the floor beneath the work surface. The better half only popped in a couple of times (you don’t disturb a master, right) but felt obliged to say “I always know when you’ve been cooking”. Ignoring the fact that I’d been washing and clearing up as I went, but *obviously* I wasn’t going to clean the floor until I’d finished. Or I could just let the mice do it for me. *eye roll*
Choppin’ the cheese for the layering. Gourmets will notice that there are two mozzarella types here. On the right, Taste the Difference buffalo mozzarella. And on the left, the reserve cheese I bought in case I’d misread the amount needed. I had. Thank you, 44p Sainsbury’s Basic range.
Even so, I was light on the cheese, which is why it looks a bit sparse above. The layers go: tomato sauce, aubergine (packed with as few gaps as you can manage), mozzarella/fontina, then generous lashings of grated parmesan. Then repeat, with the final layer being parmesan. Always parmesan.
Ta da! That’s more or less what it’s supposed to look like. Of course I didn’t run out of aubergine in that last layer, how *dare* you. And if that gets a ta da, then the finished product deserves a proper fanfare. If I may say so myself, it looks pretty much like, well, something the Average Baker would have made herself.
And it was Good. Stick a sprig of basil on the top and it’s done! A solid 8/10, I’d say – I’d be miffed if I didn’t get mostly-sincere compliments from well-brought-up dinner guests. And that’s all you can really hope for.