This week I realised I have not really posted much on my blog about our holiday to the US last October. We returned home to the Christmas rush and now it’s already autumn!

When we were in New York we did a lovely walking tour of SoHo, Little Italy and China Town. We returned to Little Italy a few days later as we really craved some authentic Italian food.  On a recommendation we visited a charming restaurant for lunch, but sadly the food simply did not hit the spot, confirming that we have pretty good Italian restaurants in South Africa.

I chose one of my favourites, Melanzane alla parmigiana or parmigianiana di melanzane.

This dish is a made up of slices of pre-cooked aubergine (egg plant or brinjal!) layered with a hearty tomato sauce and cheese.

It is said to originate from Southern regions of Campania and Sicily.

You dip thin slices of aubergine in seasoned flour and egg and fry them. While this is happening, a delicious freshly prepared tomato sauce is simmering to achieve the correct consistency and concentration of flavour.

The cheese

may be Parmesan, Pecorino or Mozzarella, or as I prefer it, a combination thereof to achieve depth of flavour and the luscious creamy ‘pull’ of melted cheese! If you are watching the budget you even use a well flavoured mature cheddar, just don’t tell your Italian friends that you did that!

The balance of tomato and aubergine must be correct too

This is where the Little Italy version failed. Firstly, the aubergine was crumbed. The crumbs totally overpowered the delicate, thin layers of aubergine. Then there was only a smattering of tomato sauce between the layers, resulting in a stodgy ‘cake-like’ texture.  All the bread also took my low carb, healthy option to a heavy dish. Sadly I could not enjoy it.

Since that awful meal I have been craving a decent Melanzane alla parmigiana!

This week we found a handful of plump fresh aubergines and when I was considering what should accompany our braai on a cooler autumn evening the choice was obvious.

As an accompaniment to any grilled or roast it is perfect. It is also a hearty vegetarian dish or light meal.

You will notice that I do not pre-salt the aubergines. In the good old days some varieties tended to be bitter and it was believed that salting leached out the bitter juices. But then you sometimes still had a bitter outcome, so I believe that this is one of those ‘urban legends’! Modern plants don’t seem to producer that bitterness

Meaty variations

In many areas a thin sliced of crumbed veal, beef, pork or chicken is added to make a complete meal. Frankly I prefer a nice portion of protein rather cooked separately!

Enjoy this delicious recipe: Melanzane alla parmigiana