Saturday, March 08, 2008
Coarse cooking salt
1 Large Brown Onion, chopped finely
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed and separated (each clove goes somewhere)
3 Medium Tomatoes, chopped
400g Tin of Tomatoes, crushed
½ Cup Fresh Oregano
2 Tsp Sugar
500g Spinach, trimmed
250g Ricotta Cheese
1 Egg, lightly beaten
½ Tsp Nutmeg
½ Cup Grated Cheese
2 Tbl Sp. Flour
1 ½ Cups Milk
1 Cup Grated Cheese
Cut eggplant into slices, place on a wire rack and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Leave to stand for ten minutes, then rinse, and leave on absorbent paper. After a further ten minutes, remove them from the absorbent paper and shallow fry them, in batches, in the vegetable oil until lightly browned on both sides. Drain them on more absorbent paper. I also used a bit of butter here, on the advice of Amy, which definitely gives them a nice bit of flavour. I didn't want to use too much oil for the shallow frying.
Cook onion and garlic until soft. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook, while stirring, until the tomatoes are soft. Add the crushed, tinned tomatoes, with all the juice; the oregano and the sugar. Note here that I didn't have any oregano, I added some dried oregano and some chopped fresh basil which was also really tasty. Leave this to simmer, uncovered, until it is reduced to half.
In the interim, clean and trim the spinach. Then boil until just wilted. We added a bit of bicarb and salt to the water when boiling the spinach in order to retain some colour. After boiling, squeeze off any excess water (Amy pressed it into our colander, which seemed to work well, they never tell you 'how' to do certain things in these recipes, How does one squeeze spinach properly?) chop the spinach coarsely. Combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, garlic and nutmeg in a bowl mixing it well.
To prepare the cheese sauce first melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Gradually add the milk, stirring the whole while. Once this mixture has thickened somewhat, start to add the cheese, stirring in slowly (don't just gooi it in). The recipe says to use Cheddar Cheese, but trust an Australian recipe for Italian food not to realise that YOU CAN'T GET CHEDDAR CHEESE IN ITALY! So you, we used mixed grated cheese, or formaggio grattugiato – basically Parmesan and others. It turned out really well.
Once you have prepared all of the above, oil a decent oven-proof dish and use 1/3 of the eggplant as a base layer on the bottom. Then pour the tomato and onion mixture over this. Make a second layer of eggplant, which you cover with the ricotta and spinach mix. Add the remaining eggplant as a final vegetable layer and cover this with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle some cheese on top of this. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until it is light and golden on the top.
It makes a fantastic main meal, or complements other meats nicely. We supplemented it with a good bottle of Chianti that I was given as a gift for proof-reading some stuff as a favour to one of my classmates: Conti Serristori Chianti Classico. What fun! Hope you enjoy the preparation and the food itself as much as we did.
Apologies for the second blurry picture. We were being silly and didn't check it. Also, we have no control over our heinous wine glasses, they are part of the package in our semi-furnished home.