It started simply thus: I had cauliflower in my fridge and potatoes on my mind.
My ponderings on what to make using said combination lead me first in the direction of this yellow, coconut-milky curry which, in turn, drew me to an old Thai-style favourite. The ever-present desire – nay, duty – to mix things up, potato-wise, took those thoughts and translated them into a bake, layered with potatoes and cauliflower and a coconut-milky sauce. And it was good, maybe very good, even. But my tastebuds told me that, while the cauliflower was fine, some aubergine would be even better. I, naturally, took my tastebuds’ advice.
Potato and Aubergine Bake
So here it is then, the net result of my potatoey thought processes – not a cauliflower to be seen but, nonetheless, with cauliflower to thank for the initial inspiration.
You can think of this dish as potatoes and aubergines, baked in a faintly Thai-style coconut milk sauce, or just think of it as dinner. It’s also one of those recipes that, by happenstance more than design, ticks lots of ‘free from’ boxes, being dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. It’s also a good and warming thing to eat.
The most time consuming thing about making this is frying the aubergine slices, but this is the part that, above all, is worth it – aubergine (or eggplant, if you will) is a vegetable that is distinctly unpleasant and rubbery when under-cooked but silkily sublime when done right.
- Makes 4-6 servings & takes approx. 1 hour 15 min to prep + 1 hour to bake
- 500-600g aubergine (abt. 2 medium-sized)
- 700g potatoes, preferably a waxy variety
- 3-4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2-3cm piece fresh root ginger (abt. 2 tblsp when finely chopped)
- vegetable oil for greasing and frying
- 1 x 400g tin coconut milk
- 1 x 400g tin tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste (or use lime juice)
- pinch sugar (optional, to taste)
- fistful of fresh coriander, leaves and stems finely chopped (abt. 6 tblsp)
- 1 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste (optional)
You’ll also need:
- An ovenproof dish (mine was 30cm x 24cm and about 5cm deep), a large frying pan for frying the aubergine slices (and a second pan, if you have it), as well as a pot for making the sauce.
- Slice the aubergine into approx. 0.5cm discs, scatter with salt and leave for about 30 minutes to draw out some of their liquid.
- While the aubergine is salting, scrub the potatoes and, leaving the skins on, slice into pieces around 2-3mm thick. Cover with water until ready to use. You can also get on with chopping the spring onions, garlic and ginger.
- Place your frying pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add vegetable oil to coat. Rinse off the aubergine slices, pat dry and fry in batches until starting to soften and brown a little, about 5 minutes on either side, then leave to drain on kitchen paper. If you have a second frying pan, now is a good time to make use of it.
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Place a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the spring onions. Stir and fry for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic and ginger and fry for about a minute more. Add the coconut milk, chopped, tinned tomatoes, lemon juice about 1 tsp fine salt. Stir and bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and adjust seasoning – depending on the sweetness or otherwise of the tomatoes, you may want to add a small pinch of sugar.
- To assemble, grease the base of your gratin dish lightly, add a layer of potato slices, followed by a layer of aubergine. Spoon over about half of the coconut/tomato sauce and sprinkle with half of the coriander and chilli flakes (if using). Repeat the potato/aubergine/sauce/coriander sequence and finish with a layer of potatoes. Brush the potatoes lightly with vegetable oil and place in the oven for about an hour. Serve hot, perhaps with some salad or stir-fried greens.
- In summer and with good tomatoes available, I’d use fresh tomatoes instead of tinned. You could also add some tinned straw mushrooms to this.