As part of my university degree I had to spend some time living and working in Spain. My father managed to organise a job for me at Barajas, Madrid’s airport and one of my favourite pastimes was to watch people’s disembodied shoes as they came through immigration and guess which belonged to Spaniards (usually leather) and which belonged to Brits (plastic I am ashamed to say). This was much more fun when I was joined by a colleague and it became a kind of competitive game.

Begoña became a friend. She could be relied on for a wild night out, but she was also a good cook and this was one of her favourite recipes.

You can make these ahead – but if you do sprinkle over the cheese and breadcrumb topping just before you reheat, and make the garnish salad at the last minute.

They look a bit lonely just plonked on a plate on their own, but you may well find you have some extra filling to serve with the aubergine, or make a quick cucumber and lettuce salad to add to the plate.

 

For 8 as a starter

  • 4 aubergines
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed with one tsp smoked salt
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper (optional) deseeded and chopped small
  • 1 stick of celery – de strung and chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp semi-sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp red martini
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 110g/4 oz/1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 100g/3.5 oz/1 cup grated cheese – cheddar or parmesan
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • 1 small, floppy English lettuce, shredded
  • ½ small lemon – juice and zest – or 1 tbsp juice
  • 4 tbsp olive oil plus more for frying
  • Salt and pepper for the dressing

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 210°C
  2. Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise and coat the cut flesh with olive oil. Cut down into the flesh in a cross-cross pattern – this will help them cook more evenly. Put on an oiled roasting tray and bake in the oven for about twenty minutes. Don’t be tempted to cut off the ends, the aubergine will become flat at that end.
  3. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce by frying the onion and garlic in a little oil
  4. Add the tomatoes, the red pepper, the celery, paprika, martini, and sugar
  5. Simmer for about ten minutes
  6. Take the aubergines out of the oven and leave to cool down but don’t turn off the oven (unless you are making ahead, and reheating)
  7. Scoop out the flesh of the aubergines carefully, leaving the skins intact. Chop the flesh up quite small and add it to the tomato sauce along with about half the breadcrumbs
  8. Taste it – you may need more salt.
  9. Refill the aubergine skins with the tomato and aubergine mix. At this stage you can keep them in the fridge until about twenty minutes before you are due to eat.
  10. Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and sprinkle over the flat surface of the aubergines
  11. Put back in the oven and roast for fifteen minutes
  12. Meanwhile make a salad of the cucumber and floppy lettuce and dress it with the lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning. Sprinkle over the zest if you have any.

 

This post is dedicated to Bego

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