Combining eggplants (or aubergines) with cream shouldn’t really work, it’s not one of those natural food pairings and if anyone other than Mr Slater had suggested otherwise I would never have tried it. I’m so glad I did though because this is one of the best eggplant dishes I’ve made and it’s such a nice change to pair eggplant with something other than the usual tomatoes!. The eggplant is finely sliced and gently fried until it is just soft and ever so slightly golden. A sliced onion and some garlic are also softened and the two are layered in a baking dish with thyme before being doused with cream and Parmesan. The dish is then baked until it’s golden and bubbling. The result is a wonderfully savoury and flavourful dish which still manages to be quite subtle and mellow. This would be amazing with roast lamb but to be quite honest it’s so good that I could eat it as a meal on its own with just some crusty bread and salad.
Ingredients – Serves 4 as a side dish Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender
1 large or 2 medium eggplants/aubergines
2 medium onions
2 good-sized cloves of garlic
Thyme – a few bushy sprigs
½ a cup of freshly grated Parmesan
Wipe the eggplant and slice it in half lengthways. Now cut each half widthways into slices about the thickness of a pound coin (any thicker and the elegance of the dish will be lost). Put the slices in a colander and sprinkle them with salt, leaving them for about 30 minutes. Don’t miss this step out – it is to stop them drinking too much olive oil.
When the eggplant has relaxed (each piece will go a bit floppy) peel and thinly slice the onion and cook it in a little olive oil over a medium heat till it has softened, but stop before it colours. Peel and slice the garlic and add it as the onion cooks. Lift out the onion and garlic and set aside.
Put more olive oil into the pan and add the rinsed eggplant. You will have to do this in batches. As each slice starts to colour, turn it over, then when all are lightly golden – though far from brown – drain them thoroughly on kitchen roll (essential if there is not to be too much oil in the finished dish).
Layer the eggplant and onions in a shallow baking dish, scattering salt, black pepper and thyme as you go. Pour the cream over the eggplant. Evenly sprinkle over the Parmesan and bake at 180C for 40-45 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned here and there.