Parmigiana Melanzane

This is a construction dish. What I mean is, there isn’t a great deal to it – it’s just about putting down layers and bunging it in the oven.

Like many layered, oven baked dishes, you can make it ahead. Not only that, I think that they actually work better if you make and re-heat them as the resting period gives it the chance to settle and firm-up so that the layers almost fuse together. It’s so disappointing to cut a lovingly made lasagne or parmigiana at the table, only to see the layers slide apart leaving a sloppy mass on the plates.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 3 medium Aubergines
  • Basil, fresh
  • 250g Mozzarella, sliced
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 can Tomatoes
  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, crushed
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Method:

Cut the aubergines lengthways into slices about 1cm thick. Griddle or barbecue them in batches and then set them aside. You want to have nice charred lines on them to maximise flavour.

For the sauce, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until softened and then add the tomatoes. Feel free to use fresh if you have them. Add oregano and then cook it until it has thickened. Season the sauce and then add the vinegar to balance the sweetness and add a little twang.

In a roughly 20cm x 20cm ovenproof dish, spread a thin layer of the sauce. Top this with a layer of griddled aubergine, scatter with a few fresh basil leaves and dot with slices of mozzarella. Repeat the layers and then finish with sauce and top with parmesan. One thing I forgot to do last time was to sprinkle a few breadcrumbs or pangrattata over the top to give it a little crunch.

Bake it in the oven at 180°C for around 30 minutes.

Red wine, green salad and bread (garlic bread perhaps..?)

Aubergine bake

The prettiest spin I’ve seen on this dish was a starter at a restaurant in London with a dear friend many years ago. The Parmigiana was constructed to order, with the aubergine cut into rounds and neatly stacked high on the plate.

Here’s an alternative way to serve it:

Eggplant Parmigiana

As with all my recipes, they are merely guides. Relax, mix it up, experiment and enjoy!

Meat Free Week

Meat Free Week 2015 is upon us. Monday 23rd March marks the start of a global challenge to simply forgo meat for one week to get us all thinking about our dietary choices. As Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassadors, we’re fully supporting the movement.

This isn’t a drive to promote vegetarianism, it’s an awareness event to highlight the impact that eating too much meat has on the environment, animal welfare and your health.

Initially, I was hesitant – a week without any meat at all? This really might be a challenge, but the more I think about it, our family probably only really eats meat three times a week anyway.

If it were just Monday to Friday it’d be easy, but the thought of a weekend without some form of big special meal… Hang on, there are thousands of great meat-free dishes that would fit the bill.

The excitement is building. Who doesn’t like a challenge? We’ve bought a vast array of vegetables, herbs, fruits and cheeses to eat. I’m most excited about trying new things and broadening my repertoire.

How ironic that I’m using a Donald Russell styrofoam meat delivery box to store my plethora of ingredients for the week! (I only have a small fridge).

Meat Box as a mini fridge

Meat deliveries are a bit of a revolution for my family as we are making that concious choice to swap quantity for quality. It feels good, it certainly tastes good, and importantly, we’re spending the same amount of money each month.

As we want to make the most of what we have and avoid waste, I’m going to formulate a menu plan for the week.

So far it looks like this:

  • Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Italian Aubergine Bake)
  • Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
  • Chickpea Burgers
  • Beetroot and Goats Cheese Risotto
  • Pissaladière (without anchovies of course)
  • Portobello Mushroom and Halloumi burgers
  • Squash and Chickpea Chilli
  • Any combination of vegetable noodle dishes, Pad Thai, Nasi Goreng..
  • Something with Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kerala Egg Curry… THE LIST GOES ON.

They’ll be plenty of blog posts, comment and updates on new dishes throughout the week via social media. I’m anticipating herby flourishes, experimentation and tips for packing-in bags of flavour to make vegetable dishes really sing.

One step at a time for some people – Meat Free Monday? Make it a weekly ritual and you’ll never look back.

For more information, tips and recipes, check out:

https://uk.meatfreeweek.org/home or https://meatfreeweek.org/home in Australia

http://www.jamieoliver.com/meat-free-week/

Give it a go, I’m confident you’ll surprise yourself.

Baked Eggs

Having tried a few incarnations of Baked Eggs over the years, I’ve settled on this method as my favourite (for now at least..). I like to use the enamel coated metal dishes rather than ceramic pots so it’s not HOTTER THAN THE SUN for a good twenty minutes after serving.

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Leek, sliced
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 50ml Crème Fraîche
  • Baby Spinach
  • 50g Gruyère Cheese, grated
  • 4 Eggs
  • Breadcrumbs or slightly stale bread
  • Nutmeg
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Method: 

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.

Fry the leeks, mushrooms and garlic in a little oil (feel free to add in a knob of butter too).
Cover the base of 2 dishes with a thin layer of crème fraîche and top with the leek and mushroom mix.
Grate or sprinkle over a tiny amount of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Top with a layer of grated cheese – Gruyère brings a lovely flavour to the dish but a good Cheddar works equally well.
Cover the cheese with a layer of baby spinach leaves and crack two eggs into each dish.
Dot the eggs with crème fraîche, season again and then cover with a layer of breadcrumbs. I like to use slightly stale Sourdough and blitz it in the food processor. Don’t forget that you can always make batches of breadcrumbs from leftover bread and then freeze it in bags – it will defrost in no time.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes – the top will be golden and crispy while the egg yolks will be beautifully runny. You know what to do if you’d prefer them hard.

This is an entire meal in one dish and make a fabulous lunch.

Enjoy!

Crunchy Baked Eggs

The Earlier, The Better

I love this job. It’s wonderful to hear people getting really enthusiastic about good food and promoting well-being; especially to younglings. It turns out the manager at my daughters’ nursery is a fellow foodie and has been putting lots of effort into food education and making sure their daily menu is balanced and nutritious. Even more inspiring, they’re ensuring the line up is exciting for the children too.

I certainly recall scouring the menus whilst prospecting nurseries a couple of years back; freshly prepared, healthy food was a significant factor in deciding where to send Felix.

The Pre-School at Treetops Nursery in Cheltenham have been focusing on nutrition and health as a theme with the children during the last week – fab. Discussing the merits of the food we choose to consume is no trivial task when it comes to young minds and modern tastes, but I strongly believe that it’s important to get children thinking about it early and regularly reinforcing the message as they develop.

We avidly filled in Winter’s meal diary for her homework and the children have provided a plethora of fascinating and impressive one-liners after making smoothies and fruit salads with their teachers:

“I have to eat 5 fruit and vegetables every day to grow strong and tall like my daddy, but not all at the same time otherwise I’ll get a poorly tummy”

“Milk makes your bones grow”

“Only eat a little bit of cheese otherwise you’ll get a great big fat tummy”

Not only are Treetops Cheltenham already embracing the underlying concepts and principles of the global Food Revolution, they’ve also now got Food Revolution Day 2015 in the diary!

The global day of action is on Friday 15th May this year and the headline is “Fighting for Food Education”.  The main event will be a live cook-along with Jamie streamed across the globe with thousands of younglings making the ‘Squash It Sandwich’ in real-time.

Have a look at www.foodrevolutionday.com for further details.