Last month I found bags of grilled, frozen aubergine slices in the freezer section at Asda. £2.20 for 500g. Thought I’d give them a whirl. I do like aubergines, but they usually go at £1 a pop in fresh produce and I’m always in a race against time to cook and eat them before they go brown and soggy. Also, I hate fannying around with the salt and the muslin when I go to prepare them.
Sadly, after the frozen aubergines had been sitting in my deep freeze for a few weeks, I realised that I didn’t really know what to do with them. They were featured as a Delia “Cheat” ingredient last year, but that was for a meaty moussaka – and I don’t eat meat. Also, I read a couple of Delia-themed reviews in which people claimed that the aubergine slices were dry and flavourless. Hmmm: maybe not such frugal food after all?
So I asked the nice ladies over at Cookware Essentials if they would help me out with a suitable (and frugal!) recipe. They duly obliged, with an aubergine, tomato and pasta dish. I tinkered with it some more, and I’m pleased with the result:
Aubergine sauce for pasta, with tomato and garlic (serves 2)
1/3 bag of frozen aubergine slices (this amounts to approximately one aubergine)
1 economy tin of chopped tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, sliced.
A handful of chopped, fresh herbs from the garden. (Oregano, marjoram and/or sage are good if you have them. Basil is optional.)
Handful of grated mozzarella (you can get away with that cheap, for-pizza stuff here)
A little grana padano cheese, grated.
Pasta for two. Fusilli, penne or rigatoni are all good.
Olive oil. Seasoning.
1. Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta.
2. Brush a heavy-bottomed frying pan with a little olive oil and leave on moderately high heat until cookware is hot (not smoking). Fry aubergines, turning, until defrosted, heated through and golden brown on both sides. Remove aubergines from heat, chop roughly and season with salt and pepper.
3. Return aubergine to pan, along with the sliced garlic. Cook over low heat, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce has slightly thickened – roughly about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and season as desired. Remember that the grana padano will add a little extra bite.
4. While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Combine pasta, aubergine sauce and mozzarella. Toss until mozzarella is melted. Add reserve pasta cooking water if sauce becomes too thick.
5. Move pasta into a serving bowl and top with grated grana padano. Also top with with fresh basil, if you have it.
It’s simple and quick to make. It’s cheap, too: I worked out the cost of this dish at around £1.10 per person, based on prices at the time of shopping. To be honest, the frozen aubergine slices were a pleasant surprise. On their own they didn’t taste of much; but I’m not sure that aubergine is supposed to, once its bitterness has been extracted. What the slices did retain was their silky smooth texture. This said, the recipe – modelled on a classic Italian number, I think – would work just as well with freshly cut aubergine.
If you adapt this recipe for your own needs, or if you know of other good uses for those grilled, frozen aubergine slices, please leave a message in the comments!
Image credit: Robyn Gallagher.