Aubergine Gratin

This dish, which is found in varying forms along the Mediterranean coast, makes a good vegetarian main course.

For 4

2 large aubergines

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with a little salt

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh

1/4 teaspoon ground chilli or cayenne

salt and freshly ground pepper

125g ricotta or curd cheese

2 eggs

50g grated Parmesan

150ml double cream

Cut the aubergines into 1 cm slices. Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the slices, a few at a time, for 5-8 minutes, until soft. Drain thoroughly. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic, tomatoes, oregano, chilli, a good grinding of pepper. When the tomato starts to bubble, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Blend the ricotta and eggs, stir in the Parmesan and the cream to make a sauce. Taste for salt and add a little if necessary.

Heat the oven to 200C, 400F, gas 6. Put half the aubergine slices into a flat ovenproof dish that will hold them side by side or just overlapping. Pour over the tomatoes. Cover with the remaining aubergines and pour over the ricotta and cream sauce. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden. If the gratin is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to180C, 350F, gas 4, and if necessary cook a little longer.