The beauty of Italian cuisine is that it takes very fresh ingredients and cooks them simply but beautifully, turning them into something very special indeed. This is exemplified by Ostuni, a Puglian restaurant in West London and now Highgate. To celebrate it's new opening, we asked chef Rob Claassen to share his recipe for baked aubergine salentina.
- 4 medium-sized aubergines
- 8 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 8 tbsp grated 2-3 day old white country-style bread
- Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 5 medium-sized ripe tomatoes peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 large white onion
- 300g of tomato sauce (from tinned tomatoes)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 free range eggs
- Sea salt and pepper, to season
- Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and use a spoon to remove all of the flesh, taking care not to break the skin. There should be about a centimetre of flesh left of what is now effectively an aubergine boat.
- Sprinkle some coarse salt on the aubergine pulp and place in a colander for half an hour to remove the bitter taste from the vegetable. Rinse the salt off under cold water and then squeeze out all of the excess water and place on a tea towel.
- In a saucepan sweat the finely chopped onion in a couple of table spoons of extra virgin olive until translucent. Add the aubergine pulp and cook for 10 minutes over a moderate/low heat. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes and keep cooking for a further 10-15 minutes until the aubergine is very soft. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
- Add the grated bread, cheese, eggs, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, salt to season, black pepper, a little tomato sauce, half a sweated white onion and some olive oil. Cook for 20 minutes on the same heat.
- With the aubergine boats the traditional recipe calls for frying them until golden and soft, or you can bake them on a tray in an oven at 180°C for 20 mins.
- Fill the boats with the stuffing and place on the baking tray with the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle the aubergines with grated parmesan and bake at 180°C for around 30 mins until golden brown. Allow to cool a little before serving as they are better when not piping hot and the cheese has had a chance to set.