We headed down to Ohariu Valley in Wellington over Easter to have a long (and very overdue) with our extended family. The good news for me is that the majority of the whanau are foodies, and they have a dream kitchen, with views of the countryside that are to bloody die for. One of the first questions I’m usually hit with when I arrive is “what shall we cook?” Oh yes: That’s one of my favourite questions…! For Easter Sunday dinner I made these stacked eggplant with roast tomato, feta and pesto. They were supposed to be the accompaniment to a huge leg of roast lamb, but the positive feedback received would suggest that this eggplant concoction was the hero of the meal and the lamb should step aside!
I’ve made these stacked towers of goodness in the past for as a main course (with a side salad), suffice to say they always go down a treat and it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve if you are feeding vegetarians. This is the first time time I’ve coated the eggplant with panko breadcrumbs and fried ’em, but it was a total winner and I’ll be doing it again – when I’m off Weight Watchers though! A lighter version, and how I usually do them is to simply brush the eggplant with olive oil and grill them on the BBQ. They are delicious done this lighter way, but the fried panko version was next level because of the nutty crunchy dimension! Besides, everything tastes good fried in olive oil, eh? Sigh…. No wonder the clothes in my wardrobe are pulling me the birdie!
Note, it looks like a long winded (read, labour intensive recipe) but I did this in stages throughout the day. Made the pesto the day before. Roasted the tomatoes – set these aside. Went for a quad bike ride. Cooked the eggplant, prettied my face up before visitors arrived. Assembled the eggplant stacks when the lamb came out of the oven and was quietly resting on the bench. Seemed like no trouble at all…
Anyhoo, onto the recipe.
- 2 largeish sized eggplant
- 1 cup all purpose flour (not self raising), seasoned well with salt and pepper
- 3 beaten eggs
- 2.5 cups Panko breadcrumbs (maybe a little more just to be safe)
- 6 ripe tomatoes (you want ones packed full of flavour!)
- 125g (ish!) of feta - I used Food Snob's Bulgarian goat cheese feta, but you can use any kind, creamy or crumbly too - doesn't matter!
- 6 tablespoons of Basil pesto (store bought is fine, I always make my own, using this recipe, sub the coriander for basil)
- 1/2 c olive oil, any kind + a bit extra
- Couple of pinches of brown sugar
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat an oven to 180 degrees (bake function)
- Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Slice the tomatoes into rounds that are 1cm thick. Discard the top and the tails.
- Place on baking paper. Sprinkle with a few pinches of brown sugar (this takes the acidity out of the tomato). Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper (don't be shy). Drizzle lightly with olive oil (you'll need to use a couple of teaspoons approx).
- Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside.
- Slice the eggplant into 1.5cm rounds. Discard the tops and tails.
- Get four plates, one for the egg, one for the flour, one for the panko breadcrumbs, one empty one ready for your eggplant.
- Coat each slice of eggplant as follows: Gently press into the flour, flip and gently press again to coat both sides. Dip the slice in the egg and lightly coat both sides, shaking off any excess egg (I use my fingers, use a fork if you don't like getting messy!). Dip the slice into the panko, using your fingers to brush some crumbs on top, and gently press the eggplant so the crumbs stick. Place the fully-coated slice on the fourth plate.
- Heat two large frying pans (I'm impatient - using two speeds things up). Add olive oil (1/4 cup) to each frying pan and add the eggplant when the oil is hot.
- Gently fry the eggplant over a medium heat on both sides until golden brown on both sides. Do NOT move them around too much in the oil, otherwise the panko will fall off. Let them just sit and fry in the oil) and carefully keep an eye on the colour to see when they are done.
- Remove eggplant to a baking tray that's lined with baking paper.
- Place 6 of the largest eggplant rounds onto your baking tray. Top with tomato (you may need to use 1 slice of tomato, or 1.5 or 2 slices of tomato, depending on how big the tomato slices are).
- Top with a slice of eggplant and spread the eggplant with pesto until well coated.
- Top the pesto with slices of feta, add more tomato, then finish with another slice of eggplant. Secure stack with a toothpick.
- Place stacks in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the feta has softened and the stacks are warmed through.
You know how I said the view was good? Here’s a few piccies to give you a feel. Check out the view of the windfarm just up the road (aka a 20 min quad bike ride and it’s private land, lucky us to get to go there). Breathtaking scenery. Lucky for us Wellington was having an unusually calm (read: unwindy) day.