Recipe: Vegan Melanzane



Melanzane parmigiana is one of my all time favourite dishes. It is an authentic Italian dish made up of layers of aubergine, parmesan and tomatoes and baked in the oven. It is tasty and comforting and the smells and flavours will transport you from your kitchen to the Italy countryside. Not wanting the plant eaters among us to miss out on this wonderful dish, this interpretation of melanzane has all the taste and flavour of the original but is dairy free, sugar free and gluten free.

I used to have a mental block about cooking aubergines. I was confused by recipes that called for them to be salted, rinsed and doused in copious amounts of oil before cooking. When I did cook them, they always tasted bitter and reeked of oil. After some trial and error I now don't bother with the salting, rinsing and over oiling and instead keep it simple. This works for me and I am happy with the taste and texture.

In this recipe you can use either extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil to cook the aubergines. I suspect olive oil is a better option from a taste perspective but I prefer to use coconut oil when cooking at high temperatures because of its high smoke point.

Ingredients:

For the aubergines

2 medium aubergines

4-5 tablespoons of olive oil / coconut oil

For the cashew cheese filling

1 cup of cashew nuts (soaked for an hour in hot water)

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast

2 garlic cloves crushed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of water

1 cup of basil leaves

Salt and pepper to season

For the tomato sauce

1 tablespoons of coconut oil

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 ½ cups of cherry tomatoes

Salt and pepper to season

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4.

Slice the aubergines length ways into slices about 3mm thick. Brush each side with a little olive oil or coconut oil and place on a baking tray and place in the oven. Allow them to cook for about 20 minutes, turning the slices of aubergine half way through. The aubergines should be begining to get that lovely golden colour but don't allow them to become hard.

Meanwhile, make the cashew cheese filling. To do this, place all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. So simple.

Next make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently for about 7 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft. Cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters and add them to the saucepan. Allow them to cook over a low to medium heat until soft. Roughly break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. After about 7 minutes, use a handheld blender to blend the tomatoes, onions and garlic together. Then bring the mixture to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the aubergines have been roasted in the oven and the cashew cheese and tomato sauce made, it is time to assemble the dish. Assemble the aubergines and cashew cheese like a cannelloni with each slice of aubergine rolled into a cylinder shape and stuffed with about a heaped teaspoon of the cashew cheese filling. Lay the rolled aubergine side by side in an ovenproof dish and pour the tomato sauce over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with a fresh green salad and enjoy a taste of Italy .




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