This recipe is inspired by one of my favourite “culinary” programmes, Come Dine With Me. Though perhaps not the most serious cooking series around, with just the right amount of awkward dining scenarios complemented by consistent mockery from Dave Lamb, it can never fail to entertain. The particular dish that inspired these aubergine rolls, as I remember, was the starter before the dreaded main course that ended up in the bin as a result of rash action on part of the angered host, who subsequently retreated to his room to have a little calm down. But aside from the events following, the starter was well received by the guests and I therefore decided to make my own. The rolls of aubergine are kept deliciously moist by the melting mozzarella cheese, and the saltiness coming from the ham tops off the dish. As a starter, the little rolls of aubergine are a perfect way to begin a meal! But I wanted to make something substantial, that could be enjoyed for longer.
The addition of a sauce makes this dish recognisably more plentiful. The rolls of aubergine are nestled in a thick tomato sauce, allowing the flavours of basil, and thyme, to be soaked up and infused once in the oven. Tender green beans are included in the sauce for much the same reason – another dimension of taste is provided, and another ingredient moreover contributes to the wholesomeness of the dish. A different texture is provided by the lightly oiled torn ciabatta bread, adding a satisfying crunch with each mouthful. Added to the dish very near to the end of the cooking process, it is baked immersed in the sauce – the top of the bread is crisp, the bottom is soft, having been soaked in delicious tomato. Serving this dish on a bed of fresh rocket pairs the salad’s peppery flavour brilliantly with the aubergine. For a summer dish, this is perfectly light, but for winter this dish could easily be served with boiled potatoes, or steamed rice, to lend it the feel of proper comfort food.
- 1 aubergine, stalk removed and sliced into 1cm thick slices vertically
- ½ ball of mozzarella cheese, roughly torn
- Parma ham, around a slice per two pieces of aubergine
- Green beans, trimmed
- Batch of homemade tomato sauce, or passata
- Small ciabatta roll, roughly torn
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Place a colander in a clean, empty sink, and add the aubergine slices. Salt the aubergine, and rest there for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce: bring some water to the boil in a small pan, and blanche the green beans until nearly tender.
- Rinse the aubergine slices after the stated time, and pat dry with paper towels. In a frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil, and fry the aubergine slices until golden brown. Remove from the heat.
- Into an oven proof dish, pour the passata or homemade tomato sauce. Drain the green beans, and stir them into the passata. Season.
- Place the slices of aubergines flat on a clean surface. Lay parma ham over each of the slices, topping with mozzarella cheese. Repeat the process until the aubergine runs out. Then, roll the aubergines up into small sausage shapes; laying the point where the two sides of aubergine meet face-down in the dish. This will stop them unravelling during cooking! It is important to ensure that the rolled aubergine is nestled in the sauce as much as possible – this will keep them moist and enhance the flavour of the dish.
- In a clean bowl, lightly oil the torn ciabatta. Sprinkle the ciabatta over the aubergines, and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the ciabatta is golden and the aubergines are soft.
- Remove from the oven, and serve the aubergine with a peppery rocket salad!