Yesterday marked 1 month since the start of my new life here in Italy and I naturally kept myself busy in the kitchen working on a recipe which I will share once I have perfected. Looking back at the last few weeks, I feel I am still getting the hang of this blogging and recipe lifestyle. But what have I learnt so far?
This blogging malarky isn’t easy – it takes a lot of planning and organisation and especially at the start (and no doubt even once you get things going), it’s hard work! It isn’t simply cooking any old dish, taking a random photo and sticking it online. It’s figuring out what is available ingredient wise (Italy is a lot more seasonal than the UK.. I can’t just pop to the supermarket and expect everything to be there), planning your day so you can fit in the testing/cooking, styling, photographing, gym (very important), feeding the rest of the family (ie. my guinea pigs), writing everything up, social media and as I’ve been doing the last couple weeks, teaching English. I just about have time to make a cuppa tea in the late PM.
It’s never too late to learn – I knew my photography skills weren’t up to par so I decided that if I wanted to work on this seriously, I needed to sign up to a course. I luckily found one by attending a free webinar presented by Sarah Fennel @bromabakery and subsequently signed up to her Foodtography School course. This is not only teaching me photography skills, but editing skills using Lightroom, styling skills and social media/marketing skills. I’m just finishing week 3 and already I can see a big difference in my photos and I know they will continue to get better!
Staying in isn’t quite so bad – Back in London I was almost never home, ask my flatmate, I’m surprised he remembered who I was at times. If I wasn’t at the gym, I was out with friends or visiting family. I rarely had a night at home in front of the TV. My life here in Italy is completely different. I’m non-stop in the day (going to the gym at 10am is delightful) and by dinnertime I actually look forward to getting into my PJs and watching Ereditá (minus the terrible choreo) and Soliti Ignoti. Yes, I do get days of cabin fever, but I find ways to get out for a bit and I’ve been on a couple hikes in the nearby hills on the weekend which have really helped to clear the mind.
I’ve made the right decision – it’s just a shame it took me so long to do so.
Right! Enough of the reflective stuff and onto the actual recipe. If you made it this far – I salute you! This past weekend, we (I say we, my cousin Claudio) picked the last aubergines as winter draws closer and closer. This meant we were left with an abundance of these purple beauties, so my task was to try and incorporate them as much as possible into this week’s menu.
Anddd what better way to do so, than a delicious Parmigiana! This dish brings back memories of my summers in Sicily where this was available on almost every menu.
However, I wanted to lighten up this super rich dish by removing the fried element of the aubergine, as they work like sponges when you throw them into oil. Instead, I chose to grill them on a griddle – not only does it stop the house (and you) stinking of fried, but it makes this dish 100x healthier (which means you can eat more…..). Ensure you get the griddle super hot before placing the aubergines on there, and push them down slightly as they tend to curl a little. After a few minutes you will get the beautiful charred lines, so when you flip, try and keep the lines the same direction. I would also recommend making more aubergines than you think you need, they shrink when they cook and you will need to overlap them in the oven dish. I have put a recommendation but remember any leftovers you can marinade and keep for the next day!
The sugo element can also be kept super basic – everyone has their own way of doing theirs and I will be doing a post on how we do ours at home very soon, but for the purposes of this recipe, I have stuck a quick version at the end in case you’re at a loss and want to avoid store bought sauce (Please. Avoid.).
This is another great make-ahead dish and keeps well for a couple days (if you can make it last that long) and works well on it’s own or as a side dish to accompany meat or you can have it with a salad if you want some freshness. We ate it as it was with some bread to soak up the juices!
You will notice from the photos that I only put parmesan on half of my dish – this was at the request of my mother who doesn’t eat parmesan…if I had it my way the whole thing would’ve been covered!
Serves: 8-9 people
Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
6 Medium Aubergines, sliced length ways
3 Eggs, Hard Boiled & Sliced
200g Prosciutto Cotto (Ham)
3 Mozzarella Balls, Drained & cut into pieces
As much Parmesan as you want!
800ml Fresh Sugo – see below for recipe
Place a griddle pan on a high heat, and when hot, lay on the aubergine slices and press down. Leave to cook for around 4 mins a side. When cooked through, remove and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 195°C.
In a large oven proof dish, spread some sugo all over the bottom, lay the aubergine slices so they overlap slightly to cover the whole dish, add another layer of sugo followed by egg and mozzarella.
Cover with grated parmesan (be generous!) followed by a layer of prosciutto. Spread a thin layer of sugo on top and then repeat the layers starting from the aubergine.
You should get around 3 full layers, and you last layer should be aubergine, sugo, mozzarella, parmesan and breadcrumbs.
Place in the oven for around 30-40 minutes until the mozzarella has melted and the breadcrumbs have gone golden.
You can stick the grill on for a couple minutes to give it the extra charred feel at the end!
Remove from the oven and let it rest for around 10 minutes before serving.
Just an FYI – this is even more delicious the next day! To reheat, throw it back in the oven at around 180°C for 30 minutes so it heats through!
Easy Fresh Sugo
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
800ml Chopped Tomatoes
1 Garlic Clove, slightly crushed
8-10 Basil leaves
½ tsp Sugar
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
Place all the ingredients into a sauce pan except for the sugar and olive oil and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally and check if the tomatoes are bitter. If so, add sugar gradually to taste. This can be omitted if preferred.
Leave to simmer for around 45 minutes until reduced and then remove from the heat until ready to assemble to parmigiana.