Friday, May 2

Aubergine & Ndjua Parmigiana

I'm late to the party on this one. Ndjua is a spicy 'spreadable' Italian salami originating from Calabria. Like all men of a certain age, fashion trends quite often pass me by.  All the movers and shakers are onto the next foodie fad - probably Peruvian food - whilst I extoll the virtues of this great product to an audience who heard it all before, and several years ago.

My fridge contained a few wrinkly and past their best aubergines, some leftover passata, half a pint of milk and a parmesan end - it screamed Parmigiana at me. But I also had a jar of Ndjua I had been saving for a pizza or bruschetta topping. A well made Aubergine Parmigiana is a fantastic vegetarian dish to have in your armoury - truly delicious sloppy midweek comfort food. But the addition of this spicy, oily, deeply meaty spread was a revelation. The bowl in the picture is as large as it looks - it would serve four easily. My wife and I devoured it in less that 15 mins, with bread… was that good.

I bought my Ndjua from Carlucchio's, but I would guess any good Italian deli would stock it. I have to say that you could probably make a better version of it yourself if you have access to a load of salami ends. Simply minced and cooked out with onion, garlic, some fennel, chilli and a few well chosen spices, but the jar version was pretty good. 

2 medium aubergines
50ml olive oil
1 ball of mozzarella
1/2 jar of good quality passata
1 small bunch of basil
1/2 jar of ndjua
200g grated parmesan
1/2 pint full fat milk
A large knob of butter
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
2 fresh bay leaves
1 clove
1 small onion - finely sliced
1/4 nutmeg - freshly grated
1 small palm full of black peppercorns
Pancetta or parma ham slices

First infuse the milk for the béchamel. Warm the milk to near boiling with the onion, bay, clove, nutmeg and peppercorns. Take off the heat and leave to stand for 1/2 hour before passing through a sieve. Retain the milk, discard the onion and herbs.

Slice the aubergines 1.5 cm thick, season lightly and gently fry in olive oil until very soft and lightly coloured on both sides. Place the aubergines on a chopping board and spread half with ndjua. Top with a few basil leaves and some torn mozzarella and another slice of aubergine to make a sandwich.

Pour half the passata into the bottom of a roomy oven dish, tear in a few more basil leaves and then put a single layer of aubergine 'sandwiches' on top. Squeeze them all i!. To finish the béchamel, melt the butter and flour together in a pan until combined. Turn up the heat and whisk in the milk. Bring to the boil whisking all the time until thickened. Drop the heat to very low and allow the flour to cook out for a few minutes. Add most of the parmesan and off the heat, beat into combine - taste and season. 

Pour the béchamel over the aubergine and top with the rest of the parmesan. Lay on some slices of parma ham or pancetta and bake at 180c until bubbling an golden on top - maybe 40 to 50 minutes.

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