Us Mediterraneans love a good aubergine / eggplant and this dish is a great ode to them: a cross between the classic Italian Melanzane parmigiana and the Greek Cypriot Melintzanes – it takes the best out of both classic recipes and makes a baby which is this aubergine melt. This bake literally melts in your mouth and hence the title name (i must admit i didn’t know what to title this recipe – “the baby of melanzane parmigiana and Melintzanes” didnt seem too catchy). Its a melty, cheesy, auberginey and healthy delight and I’ve said it makes 3 portions even though “objectively” it seems more, because when you cut yourself a slice, you ain’t gonna stick with that slice – you’re going back for more. This is what happened in my wee household – resulting in my poor mother (who adores it when i make this dish so i always make sure i take her some) having a meager portion left, since Ryan wasn’t shying away when it came to second servings!
When making this dish make sure you pick aubergines that are shiny and firm, the mushy, murky ones wont do your dish justice and taste quite different in the end result. Serving suggestion: A crisp side salad and fresh brown bread to scoop up all the leftover juiciness
Ingredients (makes 3 portions)
Note: I used a round pyrex dish, about 15cm in diameter. So you may need to increase or decrease quantities, depending on size of your pyrex.
- 1 500g jar of ready-made Basil & tomato sauce* / 1 κονσέρβα έτοιμη σάλτσα ντομάτας και βασιλικού *
- 4 medium firm & shiny aubergines, cut into 5mm slices longwise / 4 μέτριες σφιχτές μελιτζάνες, κομμένες κατά μήκος σε φέτες 5μμ περίπου
- Dried basil / αποξηραμένος βασιλικός
- olive oil / ελαιόλαδο
- 100gr plant-based cheese, grated (I use smoked cheese or mozzarella) / 100γρ φυτικό/νηστίσιμο τυρί (εγώ χρησιμοποιώ καπνιστό τυρί ή μοζαρέλα)
- Vegan parmesan** (optional) / Παρμεσάνη Βίκαν ** (προαιρετική)
Bechamel / White sauce:
- 6tbsp dairy-free butter / 4κσ. βούτυρο νηστίσιμο
- 5tbsp flour / 5κσ. αλεύρι άσπρο
- 2cups unsweetened almond or soy milk (room temperature) / 2φλντ. γάλα αμυγδάλου χωρίς ζάχαρη ή γάλα σόγιας (ζεστό ή θερμοκρασίας δωματίου)
- 1/4tsp pepper and 1tsp salt / (1/4κγ. πιπέρι και 1/4κγ. αλάτι)
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional) / μία πρέζα μοσχοκάρυδο (προαιρετικό)
****Click here to see how to make a bechamel sauce separately
Directions (total time 75mins)
- Pre heat your oven to 190C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.
- ***Sprinkle salt liberally on both sides of your aubergine slices and layer them in a colander. Set aside for 20minutes. You will notice moisture/liquid coming out of the aubergines. After 20 minutes, rinse them so the salt comes off and press/dab them dry with kitchen paper.
- While aubergines are salting, Make Bechamel sauce: In a frying pan, on medium heat, heat the butter until its melted. When it starts to sizzle, add the flour and whisk it thoroughly through the melted butter until you no longer see any white colour – cook flour for 2-3 minutes stirring. Reduce the heat to low and while whisking add the milk in increments. Keep whisking while you put all your milk in. You will usually get to the right thickness after it has reached boiling point and boiled for a few minutes. When you’ve reached the desired thickness (sauce will thicken as it cools), remove from the heat and add pepper, salt and nutmeg.
- Lay aubergines on the baking paper-lined oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle dried basil & little salt on them. Put these in the oven for 15-20 mins or until soft but tender.
- Remove your aubergines from the oven, but keep oven on.
- Start layering: At the bottom of the oven dish put 3.5tbsp of béchamel and 2 tbsp of tomato sauce, to cover the bottom of the pan. Ontop, layer aubergine slices as neatly as you can. Cover with a layer of tomato sauce, then sprinkle with grated cheese. Add another layer of aubergines, cover with tomato sauce and then cheese. Then add your last layer of aubergine slices and cover with the remaining béchamel. Sprinkle the leftover cheese and vegan parmesan (optional) over the top.
- Place in the oven for 25 minutes. [Optional: If you want the top slightly crispy and the cheese golden, After 25mins, Switch setting onto grill for 5-8 minutes]. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before eating
*Feel free to make your own tomato and herb sauce. The jar version is great when you are limited for time or want an easier recipe! If you do choose a jar, please try and choose a good brand with low sodium
***This stage is to remove any bitterness. If my aubergines have very few seeds in them, I skip the salting bit since they give most of the bitterness. So take a look at your aubergines: If there are virtually no seeds, then skip step no. 2.
** Make vegan parmesan: In a food processor, Blitz 3tbsp raw unsalted cashews, 2.5tbsp nutritional yeast, 1/3tsp salt, 1tsp garlic powder and 0.5tsp onion powder in a food processor, until it resembles parmesan.