Sunday, February 9

Melanzane in Carrozza

Just the most perfect little veggie lunch dish from Napoli. The Italian translation of 'in Carrozza' means 'in a carriage' - not sure this is relevant or even that interesting but there you go…

The addition of lentils to the tomato sauce is my idea and therefore in-authentic, but they do make the whole more substantial. For four:

1 large carrot, peeled
2 sticks of celery
1 small leek, washed and trimmed
1 small onion, peeled
Olive oil for frying
Italian brown or puy lentils - 200g
Vegetable stock - from a cube is fine
Extra virgin for frying
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf
2 quality tins of chopped tomatoes
1 bunch of basil, leaves separated from stems
2 balls of buffalo mozzarella
1 beaten egg
2 large aubergines
Plain flour -  1 large handful
Grated parmesan -  1 large handful
Breadcrumbs -  1 large handful
Balsamic glaze to drizzle

Slice the aubergine lengthways into 4 long slices of equal thickness (1.5cm) trimming the skin off the end pieces. Lightly season and oil and grill gently on a griddle until very soft and lightly char-marked. Set aside on a tea towel to cool.

Finely dice the carrot, celery, leek and onion and gently fry in olive oil until soft. Add a little garlic, the rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and the lentils. Just cover with vegetable stock or water and simmer until soft topping up with a little water if it needs it.  You want the lentils to be dryish when cooked.

Next make a basic tomato sauce by adding 50ml of olive oil to a sauté pan and gently fry the remainder of the garlic until it starts to go golden. Toss in the tomatoes and gently simmer with a good pinch of salt, black pepper and sugar until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the lentils and adjust the seasoning. Keep warm.

Cut the mozzarella into slices, top one slice of aubergine with the cheese and a basil leaf or two. Sandwich with another slice of aubergine and press together well. Repeat until you have four aubergine sandwiches. Dip into the beaten egg and dredge in the breadcrumb mix. Gently fry in 1 cm of olive oil until golden and then flip over. You may have to fry off the aubergine in batches - keep warm on kitchen roll.

Warm the sauce and tear in the remainder of the basil. Spoon onto warmed plates and top with the aubergine slices. Finish with a drizzle of good extra virgin, some balsamic , basil and more parmesan if you wish. 

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