The much-loved Italian-American ‘eggplant parm’ is the inspiration for this dish with layers of breaded aubergine, tomato sauce and cheese, but with a slightly different take here. If you can’t find kataifi pastry for the topping, feel free to use filo instead and thinly slice it into julienne strips using scissors. This pie requires a little bit of love to make, but is well worth the effort for an impressive meatless centrepiece.
Recipe from OTK Extra Good Things
1kg aubergines, trimmed and cut lengthways into 1–1 1⁄2cm-thick slices (about 4–5 per aubergine)
70g plain flour
2 large eggs plus 3 large yolks
2 tbsp milk or water
225g fine dried breadcrumbs (we use Paxo)
105ml olive oil
40g kataifi pastry, defrosted and roughly cut into 2–3cm lengths
75g pecorino romano (or Parmesan), finely grated
300g buffalo mozzarella, drained of any water and thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
120ml olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped (180g)
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp Aleppo chilli
2 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1⁄2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tins of plum tomatoes (800g), crushed by hand
2 tsp caster sugar
30g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan. Line two large baking trays with baking parchment.
2. Toss the aubergines in a large bowl with 3⁄4 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper.
3. Put the flour into a shallow dish. Put the eggs and yolks into a separate dish with the 2 tablespoons of milk or water and whisk together well. Put the breadcrumbs into a third dish with 1 1⁄4 teaspoons of salt, mixing to combine.
4. Working with one slice at a time, coat the aubergine in the flour, shaking off the excess, followed by the egg wash, then the breadcrumbs. Transfer to your lined trays and continue with the rest. Drizzle the slices all over with 2 tablespoons of the oil per tray and bake for 15 minutes. Switch the trays around, then bake for 15 minutes more, or until nicely golden. Remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 180°C fan.
5. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Put the oil into a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until softened and lightly coloured. Add the garlic and spices and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute more, then add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, 400ml of water, 1 3⁄4 teaspoons of salt and a good grind of pepper. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly. Stir in the coriander, then measure out 700g of sauce (you’ll use this to build the pie). Keep the rest in the pan, to warm up when serving.
6. In a bowl, toss together the kataifi, half the pecorino and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil.
7. Next assemble the pie. Line a 23cm springform cake tin with a piece of baking parchment large enough to cover the base and sides. Cover the base with a third of the aubergine slices (cutting them to fit, as needed). Top with a third of the sauce, a third of the mozzarella and a third of the remaining pecorino. Continue in this way with the remaining aubergine, sauce and cheeses. Lastly, top evenly with the kataifi mixture and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the heat up to 200°C fan and bake for 15–20 minutes more, or until nicely golden on top. Remove from the oven and leave to set for about 30 minutes.
8. Remove the outer ring of the tin and use the paper to help you lift the pie on to a board. Heat up the extra sauce and serve the pie warm, or at room temperature, with the extra sauce alongside.