When I was young, my mother often cooked weiner schnitzel, soaked in egg then dredged through breadcrumbs and fried. These days I eat the eggplant version, topped with an intense tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. If my vegan daughter is coming for the weekend, I’ll top it with a sundried tomato pesto or salsa, and garlic crumbs for a dairy-free version. It’s rich and luscious – not heavy and hard to digest. Weiner schnitzel is tough when it’s fried, and the eggplant version is mouth-wateringly tender. But I cheat too, as I am too lazy a cook to be standing by the pan flipping it over. I use my oven to fast-bake, so I can enjoy a glass of wine and chat to my friends and family, while the meal is cooking. And before I even get the aubergine into the oven, my roasties (potato, pumpkin, carrot, kumara…) are halfway done, so it all comes out perfectly cooked in time to serve.
Eggplant, or aubergine, is one of those vegetables that people love or hate. It took me years to really enjoy eggplant, thanks to a truly awful moussaka in my twenties. Fortunately I had another go. I kept walking past those gorgeous, glossy, purple aubergines and thinking, “there must be a better way to eat eggplant.” And there is. Like this. Don’t be alarmed at the way the slices soak up the olive oil – this is normal and makes them super-delicious. And olive oil is good for us – it’s a good fat and does not make us fat. I heard it from the scientists so it must be true.
The recipe below includes a basic tomato sauce, but feel free to swap it out for your favourite store-bought one. Or add smoked paprika, or chilli to change the flavour profile.
2 eggplants, each sliced longways into 4 ‘steaks’
1 egg beaten, or ½ cup soy milk
1/2 cup each ground flaxseed and almond meal (more if using large eggplants)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil to drizzle
1 400g can tomato puree
1 tbsp dried or fresh sage
1 tsp crushed garlic or garlic salt
1 dsp soy sauce
Grated cheese or cashew cheese
Preheat oven to 200◦C. Spray a baking tray with oil. Put your egg or soy milk into a flat, wide soup bowl. In a second bowl, mix the flaxseed, almond meal, salt and pepper. Take each slice of eggplant, and dip it first in the egg/milk, and then in the flaxseed mixture, so it is well coated. Place on the baking tray and drizzle liberally with olive oil.
When you have coated all the slices, bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turn them over and bake another 10 minutes. If they are not soft, they need a little longer.
Meanwhile, mix your tomato puree with the sage and garlic, and when the eggplant comes out of the oven, smother each slice in a good dollop of the sauce. Top with grated cheese or cashew cheese, and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
Serve 1 or 2 eggplant steaks per person, with roasted potatoes and lots of veges on the side. And a glass of red wine, to wash it all down.