• clairhenderson

We watch food porn, but it's still vanilla at home.

As I talk to people about their experiences of cooking with fruit and vegetables, there seems to be a theme with many people. Boredom and ruts, chore and routine, afterthoughts or no thought. Despite clicking on fabulous dishes and foods in social media, many of us, shop for the same thing week in week out... chuck in some bananas, carrots, broccoli and frozen peas. Things do change, slowly, with food trends... in the 2000s we added spinach and blueberries... in the 2010s we added avocados and kale... and this decade I'm hanging out for a return to cabbage and potatoes. But let's see!


Now, as you're reading this, I'm hoping that, like me, you're a food adventurer. You know that what you put in, you get out. It pays to be brave and it pays to be bold. So this week, I'm challenging you to make a dish you've never made before. Inspired by something seasonal you've eaten out and about, or something you've liked on social media, or from a cookbook you haven't used yet. Bring the excitement back to your kitchen. It will repay you tenfold! It doesn't need to be big, clever or even insta-worthy. Just new to you.


I'm just back from a lovely weekend walking the South Downs. We stayed in the seaside town of Worthing (Southenders! they have an impressive pier! Not in length, of course, but in love. It's beautiful!) We visited a locally-loved Italian restaurant there and were reminded of the simplicity of good ingredients, cooked well. My dish - Melanzane al Forno - felt lip-smackingly familiar, and I eventually realised it was a doppelganger for a dish introduced to me by The Happy Pear Boys as Aubergine Parmigiana. They seem to be very similar. Like a lasange. But without meat or pasta!






After a little internet research and a check with an italian buddy it seems yes, there is very little difference between the two dishes. So this is my simplified version of the Happy Pear recipe. And feel free to further adapt to your tastes and preferences.


Ingredients


2 aubergines, sliced 6-10mm thick

a few good glugs oil of your choice

plenty of seasoning


1 smallish onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, grated

2 good handfuls of fresh chopped tomatoes, or a can of chopped tomatoes.

Whatever herbs float your boat, dried or fresh. (Oregano and basil work very well)


200g parmesan

200g cheddar

a good shake of breadcrumbs.



  1. Slice those aubergines and shallow fry them in oil in a couple of batches on a medium heat. You want them both soft and slightly coloured, so take your time. Season and leave aside on kitchen paper.

  2. Preheat the oven at 180C and select an ovenproof dish, around 20cm diameter

  3. Using the same pan and a little more oil, slowly soften the onions and garlic, and then add the chopped tomatoes and herbs. (This is also the point to personalise your sauce.. Tomato puree for extra depth, chilli for heat, vinegar or lemon for zing!)

  4. Leave everything on a low heat for a good 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly and adding a splash of water if it starts to thicken too much. Once all of the vegetables are soft, use a stick blender to create a smooth tomato sauce.

  5. Now you need to assemble, and this bit is just like lasagne.

  6. Spoon a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the overproof dish and cover with a layer of aubergine slices. Sprinkle one third of both of the cheeses evenly on the aubergine, then cover in a thin layer of tomato sauce, and add some more aubergine. Add another third of each of the cheeses and then tomato sauce and aubergine again. Finally finish with the last third of each of the cheeses, plus some breadcrumbs.

  7. Pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden! Enjoy!





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