The aubergine (Solanum melongena) is not a vegetable but a berry? A big, glossy berry, and that little morsel of biological detail makes me love them even more.
This is a quick version of a River Café pasta recipe, as I needed to get food on the table pretty fast for the ravenous beasts after a hard day.
You start by frying garlic, chilli and flat leaf parsley in oil for five minutes. Then add tomatoes which I DO NOT drop into hot water and peel because it takes too long. I only cook the tomatoes for 5 minutes instead of the recommended 20 as I like fresh, fresh tomato sauce in the summer. Then I add a bit of sugar because I live in the Northern hemisphere and our tomatoes are just not as sweet. Oh, and I don’t add mozzarella, so is this a River Café recipe at all? Probably not, but it’s still good.
The aubergine needs to be cut into fine slices and fried in a very hot pan to avoid them becoming sponges of oil and I prefer to griddle them for that very reason. You can pick up a cast iron griddle pan for under ten pounds on Ebay and it will be your friend for life, if you don’t have one, go get one now.
1 medium aubergine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
5 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 dried chillies crumbled
600g fresh tomatoes, chopped
Salt to taste1tsp sugar
300g spaghetti or pasta of your choice
120g parmesan freshly grated
Slice the aubergines into really thin slices, sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour. Rinse and dry. In the past, aubergines were far more bitter and this removed the bitter juices, these days they are rarely bitter but the salting will reduce the amount of oil absorbed in cooking.
While they are draining heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic, parsley and chill.
Fry gently for almost 5 minutes.
When the garlic has started to turn a golden light brown, add the tomatoes and cook for ONLY 5 minutes. Then set aside
Heat 3 more tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan and add aubergine slices to cover the bottom. Do one batch at a time and do not overcrowd the pan. Or better still place them on a hot griddle over a high gas flame.
Fry on both sides until light brown and crisp.
Drain well on kitchen paper.
Repeat until all the aubergine is cooked.
Drain thoroughly return to the pan. Place the sauce back on the heat, when hot, add the aubergine and finish with the grated cheese.Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water.Serve immediately with a green salad and garlicy dressing.