Ever since the success of the hedgehog potatoes (aka hasselback potatoes) I’ve been wondering what other foods could be given a similar treatment. Basically sliced almost-all-the-way-through and baked/roasted.
I was reminiscing about a dish an old flatmate used to make which consisted of slices of aubergine, interleaved with sliced tomato and basil, and baked, and it occurred to me that this was something that could be combined with a not-quite-sliced-right-through aubergine to give something approaching hasselbackery. (I think I just made that word up.)
There was no fresh basil, so I used pesto, and once I’d added pesto & tomato it seemed foolish not to also add some sliced mozzarella, especially as I had some that needed eating. It was a matter of moments to assemble, into the oven, and bosh! An impressive looking vegetarian main dish.
Unfortunately, the first attempt at this did not receive rave reviews. Kipper said that my hassleback stuffed aubergines needed more pesto. I said they needed more cheese. DH said they needed more everything. There was nothing for it but to make the dish again, only better.
Second go, I sliced the aubergine thinner so the stuffing-to-aubergine ratio was improved. I used more pesto, and more cheese, and brushed everything with more olive oil. I also baked the aubergines for longer.
And what a result! Delicious, tender, basil-scented stuffed aubergines oozing with gooey, crispy, mozzarella. This really didn’t need any accompaniments – it was a showstopper of a dish that looked and tasted fantastic.
Kipper and DH agreed. They urged me to make it again. I will.
This would be a terrific ‘vegetarian alternative’ for a festive family meal, because as well as looking the business, and tasting terrific, it’s also a doddle to make. I made two stuffed aubergines and the total prep time was about 10 minutes. Once it’s in the oven you can pretty much forget about it. Sit back and enjoy a glass of wine while it does its cheesy, pesto-y, aubergine-y thing in the oven. Then serve to admiring glances and compliments about your culinary skills. Hurrah!
Oh yes – you can see in the photos I only put tomato in one of the aubergines, as Kipper refuses to eat tomato. (I can’t really complain, she’ll eat just about anything else.) You are of course at liberty to use the tomato or not, according to your own preference.
Make one medium aubergine per person. It will make them happy 😀
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- 1 medium aubergine
- 2-3 tbsp pesto
- 1 medium tomato
- 150g ball of mozzarella cheese
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Slice the aubergine almost all the way through, leaving the slices connected at the bottom. (The easiest way to do this is to place a chopstick on either side of the aubergine and cut through until the knife hits the chopstick.) The slices should be around 7-8mm thick.
- Spread some pesto into each cut, using the back of a spoon or a butter knife to spread it over the cut surfaces.
- Thinly slice the tomato, and insert a slice into each cut.
- Cut the mozzarella in half lengthwise, then slice thinly. Place one or two pieces into each cut in the aubergine, alongside the tomato slices.
- The aubergine will have opened out into a curved shape to accommodate the filling. Brush the whole thing with olive oil and place in a snug ovenproof baking dish.
- Bake at 180C for about an hour, until thoroughly cooked and browning all over. Serve at once.