Meatless Mondays: Eggplant pie

 

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Eggplant is one of nature’s miracles, a vegetable so delicious and adaptable it appears in cuisines all over the world, famously in Mediterranean dishes like moussaka and eggplant parmesan, in the French ratatouille and in the classic middle-eastern dip, baba ganoush. Always on the lookout for a new and exciting dish to serve on Meatless Mondays, we recently came across a one-dish wonder known simply as Eggplant Pie and decided to give it a go.

Interestingly, eggplant is technically classified as a fruit, specifically a berry, not a vegetable, and is in the same botanical family- nightshade- as tomatoes, bell peppers and potatoes. It is a plant that has undergone a lot of cultivation over the ages; the modern eggplant varieties have been bred and crossbred so that they bear little resemblance to their ancient forbears, first cultivated in south Asia then making their way to the middle east and eventually putting down roots in the Mediterranean around the fifteenth century.

 

How the eggplant got its name...

How the eggplant got its name…

 

We know it as eggplant, but in the U.K. and France it goes by the much classier sounding name, aubergine. Incidentally, the moniker eggplant was given to the white variety of eggplant, a cultivar that appeared in England in the eighteenth century and bears a striking resemblance to, well, an egg. Nowadays there are several cultivars of eggplant in a variety of beautiful colour variations, shapes and sizes.

 

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Nutritionally, eggplant is not exactly a superfood; raw eggplant is over ninety percent water. But it does have some wonderful attributes; it is high in fibre and low in calories as three and a half ounces (100g) has only twenty-five calories and twelve per cent of your dietary fibre needs and is a good source of vitamin B1 and copper. Furthermore, the skin of the eggplant contains substantial amounts of the antioxidant nasunin which has been linked to protecting brain cells, one of the reasons why you should leave the peel on when you cook it.

And cook with it you must, as cooking will reduce much of the bitterness associated with eggplant, a plant that is pretty much inedible raw. Cooked, however, it has a mellow, slightly bittersweet taste, and the soft pulpy interior is a great sponge for other flavours, which is why it excels as a dip or ingredient in stews like ratatouille, or a casserole-like dish like eggplant parmesan or moussaka. Or this delicious eggplant pie, which marries the wonders of the humble eggplant with the power of navy beans, tomatoes and onions and garlic. Top this with a good cheese, eggplant goes great with a strong, fragrant cheese. For the following recipe we used Buffalina, from Prince Edward County’s Fifth Town Cheese  , a cheese that won a gold medal at the 2017 International Cheese Awards at Nantwich, England. Served with a couple pieces of garlic bread, this is one dish that will have your family asking, “It is Meatless Monday yet?”

 

Eggplant Pie

Serves 2

2 long Japanese eggplant

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup white wine

1 can whole tomatoes

1 can navy beans

basil and oregano

2 cups grated cheese (parmesan or bufallina)

Slice eggplant into rounds, season and sauté in olive oil to brown on both sides, remove to a bowl once cooked and set aside. In same pan sauté onion and garlic until soft. Deglaze with white wine. Add can of tomatoes, breaking up with wooden spoon. Drain and rinse beans, add to pan. Mix well and season to taste. Line two pie plates with parchment, (let the sides stick up, cut to fit once filled) and layer in eggplant slices to form bottom of pie. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and oregano. Sprinkle a layer of cheese. Scoop out half of tomato mixture on to each pie. Add more herbs and top with more cheese.

Pop into a 350 F oven for 15-20 minutes to cook through and allow cheese to melt. Serve with more fresh herbs to garnish and garlic bread.

 

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