I have given some general information about aubergines with my receipe for Aubergine in cream sauce. I also point out in the same place that aubergines are wonderfully adaptable, easily transformed into a number of unusual everyday meals. For example, nothing could seem more removed from the luxurious taste of aubergine in cream than this rich and hearty recipe for Aubergine steaks, though it takes no longer to prepare and in its very different way is just as attractive and distinctive.
The quantities I have given are sufficient for two (or perhaps three) people. Quantities are not more specific because what I want to describe is a simple yet unusual method of cooking aubergines and the exact amounts needed for more (or less) people can be easily adapted. In fact, everything about this way of cooking aubergine is adaptable. The aubergine steaks can, for example, be made even simpler by omitting the mushrooms and concentrating on the aubergine itself in tomato sauce. Or made more substantial by adding further ingredients: chopped onions with the mushrooms and/or thinly sliced onions or leeks or carrots or celery. But here’s the straightforward version.
1 medium aubergine
1 or 2 field mushrooms, destalked, peeled and thinly sliced or chopped
Stock, ready to hand
Salt and pepper
Tomato juice, a can or bottle ready to hand
There is nothing difficult about the preparation of this dish, but it does need to be cooked slowly and with care and watched for most of the time (about twenty five or thirty minutes in all), first to make sure the aubergine steaks stay whole and do not burn, and secondly to ensure that they can be served with a thick rich tomato sauce. It is not a dish to be hurried.
Lightly wipe the aubergine and top and tail it. Lay it on a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut it crossways and neatly into thick rounds. How thick depends on your choice but also on the size of the aubergine, and they do vary considerably in size. I would suggest either about 4cms (1½ inches) each, or simply divide the aubergine into however many rounds you need.
Using a deep frying pan, fry the aubergine portions gently in oil or fat of your choice. I usually prefer vegetable or ‘white’ lard for this, but whatever you use remember that aubergines are very absorbent and that you will almost certainly need to add quite a bit more oil or fat, especially as the steaks will need to be turned over once or twice with a slice so that they can be fried until they are slightly crisped on both sides but not burnt.
Stir in the mushrooms around the steaks and fry for a little longer, remembering that mushrooms also being very absorbent. Then pour in a small amount of stock and cook the aubergines and mushrooms gently for another few minutes. Using a wooden spoon stir in the tomato purée and add salt and pepper and some tomato juice. Continue cooking, from now on topping up with tomato juice, occasionally spooning the thickening tomato sauce over the steaks. Cook until the sides of the steaks can be easily pierced with a sharp pointed knife.
The steaks make a perfect centre piece for a roast meal or a vegetarian Sunday lunch, with potatoes (mashed, new or roast), green and other vegetables of whatever kind. They are also good with rice.