In anticipation of two hot days kindly bestowed on us by the British weather system, I cranked my oven up and made a delicious summery dish – vegan eggplant parmigiana as it’s typically eaten at room temperature with a mountain of salad and it feeds a crowd.
As I am on my own when it comes to eggplants and tomato sauce-based dishes (they don’t agree with Duncan much), this should sustain me over the next two days, during which I don’t intend to move from my hammock other than to make myself my makeshift espresso freddo or use the toilet 😉 . This is what living in the UK does to you, the moment there is steady sunshine on the horizon, you clear your diary as this amount of vitamin D may not happen for a long while, so you gotta make the most of it.
This beautiful dish of layers of meaty aubergines baked in a sweet and herby tomato sauce and topped with cheese is an Italian classic and it’s poetically known as ‘parmigiana di melanzane‘. My version is obviously vegan and definitely healthier than most and certainly healthier than the original, as instead of coating eggplant slices in flour or breadcrumbs and frying them, I bake them in the oven without a drop of oil and it really works a treat. It’s a trick I used before in my very popular vegan moussaka that is loved by everyone and no one ever complains that it isn’t indulgent enough.
The thing about eggplant is that it is incredibly thirsty and capable of soaking limitless amount of oil, so the resulting bake can easily turn greasy. Also, frying this many slices of eggplant does add a lot of work and standing over a pan compared to this fairly effortless meal. So instead of frying, I bake my aubergine slices in batches until softened, knowing that they will get cooked further in the tomato sauce later. Plus, I don’t see the point of breading the aubergines if it’s then layered with tomato sauce that is bound to stamp out any attempt at crispiness.
The second difference is an obvious one, the lack of cheese. I am not massively keen on commercially available vegan cheeses and I have not yet found one I buy again and again. Many of them are made out of a lot of nasty stuff and a lot of coconut oil, which turns them into an oily, insipid mess in high temperatures. If you found a brand you enjoy, feel free to use that to top this bake. I went for a simple cashew cheese sauce, which is made of a few natural ingredients and acts as a as creamy topping, which balances the dish nicely. I went for aesthetically pleasing puddles of this stuff, but you are welcome to double (or even triple for a thicker layer) the amount of ingredients and have it cover the entire dish for added creaminess and an extra bit of indulgence, if you wish. Enjoy!
PS: If you make my vegan eggplant parmigiana, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @lazycatkitchen and use the #lazycatkitchen hashtag. I love seeing your takes on my recipes!
TOPPING (double the amount to cover the entire dish)
SALTING EGGPLANTS: Some people advocate salting eggplants / aubergines to draw out the bitterness, but I’ve forgotten to do that a few times and I totally got away with it. Since then, I’ve read that the varieties of eggplants grown nowadays don’t have any bitterness genes (black rather than white seeds indicate a bitter tasting eggplant apparently). If you do decide to salt yours, apply salt to the slices on both sides (for about an hour) and make sure you rinse the salt off really well and pat all the slices dry before baking.