The first thing you will notice when you look at this recipe for vegan Aubergine Parmigiana is that I haven’t used any vegan parmesan cheese. This was a personal choice because I thought the cheese I was using (vegan Cathedral City) had an intense enough flavour that I didn’t need it. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it if you want to. Violife do a great one. If you’re going to put the parmesan in, I would suggest swapping about 75g of the cheese in this recipe and mixing it through before you separate it for the breadcrumbs.
This dish always makes me think of the film Twins, where Danny DeVito is putting some in the microwave for Arnold Schwarzenegger (Here on the mainland, we just nuke it!). When I first saw that film, I had never even heard of aubergine parmigiana (or eggplant in the film) but it is a dish I have come to love since. Layers of beautifully cooked aubergine, with a rich tomato sauce and lashings of cheese, all topped with a layer of breadcrumbs. What’s not to love?
I have indulged heavily on the breadcrumbs for my vegan version of this dish, which gives it a kind of crumble topping. If you don’t feel like being quite so extravagant, you don’t have to. Just half the amount of bread going on top at the end of the recipe.
You can choose, when it comes to cooking the aubergines, whether to pan fry them over put them in the oven. This amount of aubergine slices will fill your oven trays pretty quickly and take quite a while to cook in the oven, which is why I prefer the stovetop method. If you get a large frying pan hot, you can add oil as needed and sort of batch process them, piling the cooked ones up on a tray as you go, ready for use later.
This dish is better with the aubergines salted beforehand to remove the bitter moisture. To do this, lay out your aubergine slices and sprinkle salt over them. Leave them for 10 minutes, where drops of moisture will begin to appear over the surface. Before cooking, wipe the moisture off with a clean tea towel.
This recipe is easy to make gluten-free by switching the bread to your favourite gluten-free variety, or by omitting it altogether.
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Easy to make gluten-free.
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions diced
- 2 yellow peppers diced
- 175 g chestnut mushrooms sliced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- A handful of fresh parsley chopped
- 100 g tomato puree
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 3 cans chopped tomatoes
- 1 can of water
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Aubergines:
- Enough vegetable oil for shallow frying
- 4 medium aubergines sliced thinly lengthways, then salted and left for 10 minutes before wiping clean (see notes)
- 4 slices of bread
- A good pinch of salt
- A good pinch of dried oregano
- 200 g vegan cheese grated (see notes)
- First make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium to large saucepan, add the onions and the peppers together and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until they have started to soften. Put in the sliced mushrooms and cook, on a medium-high heat, for another 5 minutes, until they are browned and no liquid from the mushrooms remains.
- Now add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute more, until the flavour is released. Put in the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until the tomato sauce has reduced by about a third.
- While the sauce is simmering you can cook the aubergines. Put a little of the frying oil into a large frying pan, get it quite hot and then gently layer in your first batch of aubergine slices. Set a baking tray to one side while these are cooking. Cook each side of the aubergines for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and browned, before turning them over. You can keep this in rotation by removing the aubergines that are soft and browned and placing them on the baking tray, then adding more uncooked slices to the pan to take their place. Pour in a little oil as is needed throughout the cooking. It will take about 35-40 minutes to cook all the aubergine slices. Set them aside on the baking tray until they are needed.
- While everything is cooking, break up the bread slices and put them in a food processor, along with the pinch of salt and the dried oregano. Blitz until you have fine breadcrumbs. Empty the breadcrumbs into a bowl and then stir in 75g of the grated vegan cheese.
- Once the sauce and the aubergines are cooked, and the breadcrumbs are made, you can begin assembling the final dish.
- Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C/400F.
- Take a large oven dish and line with a third of the tomato sauce. Now layer one third of the aubergine slices on top of the tomato sauce and top with half of the remaining grated vegan cheese. Repeat the sequence again, so that you are left with one third of the tomato sauce and one third of the aubergines but none of the grated cheese. Now spoon on your final layer of tomato sauce and top with the sliced aubergines. Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs, until the dish is covered.
- Cook on a baking tray in the lower part of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
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