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If you are vegetarian, I reckon aubergines, lentils and field mushrooms are the best meat substitutes there are.  You can make tasty moussaka with lentils and you won’t miss the meat in a veggie lasagne stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, butternut squash and ricotta.  Even when I was 100% vegetarian, I’ve never been a fan of soya mince or Quorn (except for my student addiction to Linda McCartney sausage rolls), as preferred to get creative with veg than chow down on processed meat substitutes.

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It can be hard for veggies to cater for carnivores and vice versa, but I reckon the rich layers of aubergine, cheese and tomato in the South Italian classic melanzane alla parmigiana is guaranteed to leave even the most veggie-phobic customer satiated.

melit1As with most things, the tastiest is not the healthiest option, but I’d rather hike an extra ten miles to flour, egg and fry my aubergine slices – in a good olive oil, of course.  It’s time consuming but worth it!  You can of course brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and grill them before layering as a healthier and speedier alternative.  Either way, I hope you’ll agree that this is an excellent vegetarian main, best served with a lightly dressed green salad.

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I’ve got my confidence up a bit with this blogging malarkey and in attempt to be more sociable on-line, I thought I’d try out a blogging event.  It is about flavours of Italy after all, so it seems like a good place to start.  Divya’s culinary journey and simply.food are hosting, so here goes!

RECIPE: MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 -2 large aubergines, sliced widthways into 1cm thick discs

A couple of tablespoons of seasoned flour

1 beaten egg, seasoned

Olive oil for frying

A small ball of mozzarella (about 100g)

A generous grating of Parmesan (about 100g)

For the tomato sauce

A generous glug of olive oil

A clove of crushed garlic

A tin of peeled plum tomatoes

A sprinkle of oregano

A sprinkling of salt and a grinding of pepper

METHOD: Slice the aubergines into 1cm thick discs, dip into the flour so it is well-coated and then dip into the beaten egg, allowing the excess to drip off before frying in the olive oil until browned.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Add more oil rather than fill the pan, as though the aubergines do soak it up like a sponge, they do release some oil when cooked through and browning.  Squishing them slightly with a spatula helps the browning along and reduces the excess greasiness.  Or alternatively, you can grill them or griddle them.

Fry the garlic for a couple of seconds in the olive oil, before adding the tinned tomatoes and oregano.  Cook down over a medium heat, until the tomatoes are broken down into a rich sauce, and season.

Spoon two or three tablespoons of the tomato sauce into the base of an ovenproof dish, and arrange half of the aubergine slices on top so they are overlapping slightly.  Cover the aubergines with half of the mozzarella and the Parmesan, then spoon over another layer of tomato sauce and layer with the rest of the aubergines, tomato sauce and the cheese.  Bake in a moderate pre-heated over for half an hour until it is bubbling and golden.  It’s hard, but like lasagne, it’s best to leave the dish to rest for fifteen minutes or so before serving.  All it needs is a lightly dressed green salad and a glass of red for maximum enjoyment.

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