Baked eggplant with haloumi and kasseri

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Here is another of my favourite ‘meatless dishes using eggplant and is a Greek version of moussaka or as Maria Bernardis, who created this recipe, calls it ‘fake moussaka’. I often prepare this when we are having guests for dinner, especially when I am doing lamb, so that any vegetarian guest has something equally delicious to eat, while those having grilled lamb can have it as a side dish.

 

Baked eggplant with haloumi and kasseri

1 large eggplant (500g), washed, cut into 1 cm-thick rounds

125 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 kg vine-ripened tomatoes, grated to yield 3 cups tomato puree

1/2 teaspoon dried wild oregano

sea salt and black pepper

8 large basil leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve

150g kasseri cheese, grated

120g Greek haloumi cheese, grated

 

Salt the eggplant slices and place in a colander. Set aside for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, place a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, spring onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until the spring onions begin to soften. Add the tomato puree and oregano and season to taste. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir through the basil.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

Rinse the eggplant and dry well with paper towel. Use the remaining olive oil to brush the eggplant slices on both sides. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the eggplant, in batches, for 2–3 minutes each side until golden and soft.

In an oiled 20 cm x 30 cm deep baking dish, cover the base with a layer of eggplant and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the eggplant with 1/3rd of the sauce and 1/3rd of the combined cheeses. Repeat two more times finishing with a layer of cheese. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and cook for 35–40 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes then cut into slices and serve immediately.

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