I ate this in LA and I have dreamed of it ever since. It’s rich, creamy and tasty at the same time as feeling bright and clean. Be sure to cook your aubergines through on the griddle, as there are few things worse than raw aubergines. They’ll be translucent and soft all the way through when they’re ready. I have kept this dish naturally vegan and dairy free, as I find it lighter and more delicious. You could easily swap the coconut oil for butter and almond milk for cow’s, to make a more classic bechamel.
- 500 g cherry tomatoes
- 2 red onions
- olive oil
- pinch of dried chilli flakes
- 1 lemon
- 600 g small new potatoes
- 2 aubergines (eggplants)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp spelt flour
- 300 ml unsweetened almond milk
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 220°C and heat a griddle pan on high. Fill and boil a kettle and get your ingredients and equipment together.
Halve the tomatoes and finely slice the onions; on a large baking tray, toss them with a drizzle of olive oil, scatter over the chilli, grate over the zest of the lemon and add a little salt and pepper. Put them into the oven to roast for 20 minutes.
Cook the potatoes in boiling water from the kettle for 12-15 minutes, until tender and cooked through.
Meanwhile, slice the aubergines into 0.5 cm rounds. Put them on to the hot griddle pan until cooked through and charred on both sides – you will need to do this in batches. Put each cooked batch on a plate, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
To make the béchamel, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes to cook out the rawness, then add the almond milk bit by bit, whisking as you go to make sure there are no lumps. It should be a pretty thick bechamel, similar to Greek yoghurt.
Once cooked, drain the potatoes. Put a large shallow, heavy-based ovenproof pan on the heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil, then add the potatoes and use a potato masher to squash them a tiny bit so they have a flat side underneath; leave them to brown a little. Toss every now and then so they are crisp but not sticking to the pan. Season well.
Once the bottoms of the potatoes are brown, take the tomatoes out of the oven and spoon over the potatoes. Top with the griddled aubergine, spoon the bechamel over. Put into the oven to brown under a hot grill for 5-10 minutes.
Once browned and bubbling, serve in the middle of the table with some bright, lemon-dressed leaves.
Recipe and image from A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones (HarperCollins Publishers, $49.99, hbk).
View our Readable feasts review and more recipes from the book here.