The humble eggplant is used in the cuisines all over the world. In Indian cuisine it is often described as the "king of vegetables". It is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille, or deep fried as in the Italian parmigiana di melanzane, the Turkish karniyarik or Turkish and Greek moussaka.
This simple and inexpensive recipe is packed full of flavour and sure to please
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1cm thick slices, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 finely chopped medium brown onion, three crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 cup tomato paste, 2 x 400g cans diced Italian tomatoes with oregano and basil, 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, olive oil for shallow frying, 125g finely grated parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves to serve, three cups spinach.
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan). Place eggplant in a colander. Sprinkle all over with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Drain. Pat dry with paper towel. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring for five minutes or until onion has softened. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, basil and half cup cold water. Stir well. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Add enough oil to a large frying pan to cover base. Heat over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant, in batches, adding extra oil to pan when necessary. Drain on paper towel. Spoon 1/2 cup tomato mixture over base of a 10 cup-capacity ovenproof dish. Arrange one-third eggplant over tomato. Sprinkle with one-third cheese and one cup spinach. Continue layering, finishing with cheese. Season. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is golden and melted. Serve sprinkled with basil leaves.
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