Sicilian Inspired Anchovy and Aubergine Lasagne

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I’ve had a tough time recently it has to be said. Scarcely back from five days in Sicily and I was off off again for the weekend. I’m so tired I need another holiday or at least a mini break to recover from all this gallivanting and as that’s not on the horizon for at least another week I’ll just have to suffer on in silence. But on the plus side (although maybe not- we are in the middle of the dreaded bikini season) all this gallivanting has left me with quite an appetite. Especially for some more of those spectacular Sicilian flavours.

Although aubergine isn’t native to the UK being originally from warmer climes, happily for us it has adapted to British life with ease meaning we can now make the best of their summer season too. Not only are they are high in fibre, vitamins B1 and B6 as well as good sources of potassium, magnesium and manganese, they are also packed full of anti-oxidants and have been linked to lowering blood pressure, helping control blood sugar levels and lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. And they are delicious. Now I know that thanks to some clever breeding techniques, we technically no longer need to salt them before use but I often still do mine. Not for any taste difference but because I find that salted they don’t soak up all of my olive oil like a sponge. I’ll leave that decision to you or more than likely your schedule; if your house is anything like mine you’ll be choosing between fattier aubergine slices and dinner being on the table half an hour earlier. It’s understandable (and totally forgivable) if dinner wins. With or without the extra half hour this lasagna is delicious, full of Sicilian flavours, reminiscent of a proper Neopolitan puttanesca and a real change from the more heavy traditional type. Give it a try; its light enough for for these summer evenings and makes a nice change from the barbecue. And if there are any leftovers they’re perfect for lunch the next day. Straight out of the dish of course.

Anchovy and Aubergine Lasagna Recipe

Serves 6:

For the tomato sauce:

1 onion, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

4 cloves of garlic

10-12 anchovies

1 tsp dried chilli

A tbsp or so fresh chopped oregano

2 tins tomatoes

For the lasagna:

2 aubergines (egg plant)

250-300g baby leaves spinach

Fresh lasagna sheets (you could use dried if that’s all you have)

250g ricotta

2 eggs

100 ml milk

1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

75 fresh breadcrumbs

Grated Parmesan to taste

Start by making your tomato sauce. Soften the onion and celery in a good splash of olive oil and the chilli.

Add the anchovies and stir around the pan until they start to melt into the oil.

Pour in the tomatoes and rinse out the tins with water and add that too. Stir in the oregano and bring ithe whole lot up to the boil. Turn the heat down slightly and let the sauce simmer until it has thickened up.

Meanwhile slice the aubergine in quite thick slices and put them in a colander and literally sprinkle salt all over them. Leave them for twenty minutes then rinse them thoroughly with cold water.

Pat them dry and then fry them in a splash of oil until they are nice and golden brown.

Beat together the egg, ricotta and milk then season it well and grate in the nutmeg. Leave to one side and start putting the lasagna together.

Layer up the tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergine slices then a layer of spinach followed by a single layer of lasagna sheets. Repeat until you have used up all the sauce then pour over the ricotta mixture and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 180 deg. C for around 35 minutes until a knife slides though the pasta with no resistance when you poke it and the top is nicely browned.

Let it stand for ten minutes or so then serve with some summery salad.

Enjoy!

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