A long-standing regular on the weekly menu, this recipe makes a great meat-free supper dish, substantial enough to justify the description ‘steak’. I came across it in Marie Claire magazine in the early 1990s, when I was in a five-year vegetarian phase that ended decisively over a dish of beef carpaccio, at Woz in Notting Hill, in 1997 (yes, it made quite an impression). If you’re not a fan of goat’s cheese (Zita), replace it with a soft cheese of your choice.
2 medium-sized aubergines (long rather than fat), halved lengthways
60ml olive oil
4 tbsp fresh pesto – shop-bought or home-made
125g soft goat’s cheese
60g grated parmesan
It’s worth salting the aubergines first, not to remove the bitterness (which has been bred out of most aubergines these days) but to draw out moisture, so that the aubergines don’t soak up too much oil when fried. Sprinkle the aubergine halves with salt and leave for 30 minutes; then rinse and pat dry.
Heat two large heavy-bottomed frying pans and add 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil to each. Place two aubergine halves, skin side down in each pan, turn the heat to low and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes. Turn over and fry on the other side until the cut surface is golden brown. Remove to kitchen paper, cut side down and turn on the grill to a high setting.
Line a baking sheet or grill pan with foil and line up the aubergine steaks on it. Spread a generous tablespoon of pesto on each one, then dot with goat’s cheese and top with a good sprinkling of grated parmesan. Grill for 5 minutes until the surface is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve with a tomato salad and boiled new potatoes or tabouleh.