Aubergine & Pasta Bake
The strange thing is that Aubergines (Eggplants) were not a big favourite in the Mongolian Kitchen Household..but recently they seem to have been finding their way into a lot of dishes…So the first one is a Vegan friendly bake with layers of aubergine, a filling of pasta in a delicious tomato sauce and then a topping of a Vegan bechamel sauce.
As we were making this dish Vegan and didn’t use any cheese we decided to top the whole thing with crispy Panko breadcrumbs These provide a wonderful bite and texture to go with the bake. And like all things aubergine and tomato which are baked..they taste even better the day after!
Vegan Bechamel Sauce? Bechamel or white sauces start off as butter and flour. So the first stage to making them vegan is to replace butter with margarine or oil. Next we use corn flour as it has a lighter texture than normal flour. So then comes the milky part. We’ve tried Soya, Rice and Almond milk previously to make a vegan bechamel and none of them really work (no matter how many bay leafs, pepper corns, onion or garlic you add)… They have a slight sweetness which doesn’t really work for a bechamel. Finally we discovered the craziest thing which actually works (or is the closest to real bechamel sauce..).. Coffee Whitener! Yes thats right..just mix it with some water and use as the milk. It has a very neutral flavour and allows you to make your vegan bechamel sauce!
- 2-3 Medium aubergines, sliced into approx 7-8 mm thick
- 250g Pasta Shells (or use whatever pasta you need)
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp tomato puree
- ½ tsp sundried tomato puree
- ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
- ½ cup marsala (optional)
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- 350g Tomato passata
- ½ tsp paprika
- ¾ tsp dried oregano
- Large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ tsp brown or white sugar (if not using marsala)
- 2 tbsp coffee whitener
- 400ml boiling water
- 1 garlic clove, peeled (whole)
- 2 bay leafs
- 5-6 whole pepper corns
- a pinch of nutmeg
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp
- 3-4 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
- Rub the aubergine slices with olive oil (liberally as they want to semi-fry while grilling) and salt and black pepper (a sprinkle on one side of each).
- Heat your griddle plan till hot and in batches fry the aubergine slices until cooked. Press them down with a fish slice to get good contact with the pan.
- Once all the aubergine "layers" are cooked set aside
- Fry the chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft, around 5 minutes
- Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute
- Add the chilli flakes and the tomato puree and sun-dried tomato puree
- Fry for a further 1 minute
- Add the Marsala and allow to burn off for a minute
- Add the vegetable stock and passata, dried oregano sugar (if not using marsala) & paprika
- Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes and in the meantime you can boil the pasta
- When the sauce is done, taste for seasoning, turn the heat off and add the fresh basil
- Cook the pasta to the pack instructions
- Mix the sauce with the pasta reserving a few tbsp for the top of the pasta and the bottom of the oven dish
- Line the oven dish with a spread of tomato sauce
- Add the first layer of Aubergine
- Then top with the pasta which should take about 1-1.5 inch in depth.
- Top the pasta with the remaining sauce
- Then add another layer of Aubergines
- In a jug mix the coffee whitener with the hot water
- Add to it the clove of garlic, pepper corns and bay leafs
- In a non-stick pan melt the margarine
- When melted add the corn flour and fry in the hot butter until nutty (about 2 minutes)
- Then add a small amount of milk through a sieve
- Stir to incorporate, then add a little bit more milk, stir again
- Continue adding the milk bit by bit until you have a thick and creamy sauce. Tip! Adding the milk a little at a time ensure you do not get lumps in the sauce).
- When you have a creamy sauce then flavour with salt, nutmeg and a tiny bit of white pepper.