aubergines are one of my favourite vegetables but this wasn’t always the case. when i was growing up we often used to have them sliced, dipped in batter and fried but i never really enjoyed them until many years later.
i don’t know if this is a result of the varieties we eat being less bitter (they rarely need salting now) or because i’ve learned to cook them long and slow until the flesh softens and the flavour sweetens. or maybe it’s a mix of the two.
a recent favourite has been aubergine involtini (involtini is an italian word used to describe "small bundles" of food stuffed into a rolled food wrap). the first time i made this dish i used a nigella lawson recipe which saw the aubergine stuffed with a variety of cheeses, pinenuts, raisins, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, mint and parsley. friends had raved about this but i was disappointed so i decided to try my own version, using spinach cannelloni as the inspiration.
the result was a much lighter and fresher dish which i enjoyed so much i made it three times in less than a fortnight!
aubergine involtini (serves 4-6)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large aubergines, cut lengthways into slices c5mm thick, discarding the edge pieces
oil for frying
200g baby spinach
4 tablespoons grated parmesan
fresh herbs – basil, thyme, oregano or marjoram would all work well
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
200g crème fraiche
mix the chopped tomatoes with the garlic and olive oil. spread this over the bottom of your dish.
heat a griddle or frying pan until very hot. brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and cook on each side until they soften (and get brown char marks if you use a griddle - see below). let the aubergine slices cool while you prepare the stuffing.
wilt the spinach, squeeze out any excess water and chop roughly. mix this with the ricotta, 1 tablespoon of parmesan, herbs, nutmeg (i mix this in and then taste the mixture to see how much is needed) and seasoning.
put a large teaspoon of filling at the end of an aubergine slice and roll it up, placing it in the baking dish, edge down, so that the involtini doesn’t come undone. repeat until you have used up all your aubergine and mix. top the aubergine with the crème fraiche and remaining parmesan and bake at 200c for c30 minutes, until bubbling.
this is lovely with a salad and some nice (garlic) bread.