Rick's Café Américain

Winter Layered Aubergine Tajine with Lentils Recipe

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Rick's Cafe' Americain
Rickscapetown

Winter Layered Aubergine Tajine with Lentils Recipe

A hearty vegetarian bake bound to fend off frigid weather

Last Update 5 June 2017

Despite its dreaded tendency to cast Cape Town in a gloomy grey, a cold, rainy winter also happens to be the perfect excuse to indulge in some filling, feel-good comfort food. Especially skilled at preparing this sort of toasty fare is Chef Per Menkö, owner of the cosy, Casablanca-inspired city centre eatery Rick’s Café Américain. An accomplished cook and equally adept host, Per kindly offered to divulge his winning recipe for a dish he considers a tried-and-tested winter classic: Layered Aubergine Tajine with Lentils.

Steaming, hearty and rich with cheese, this Moroccan-style casserole is not only perfectly suited to warming anyone from the inside out, but, as Per emphasizes, it’s also an especially healthy, substantial winter option for vegetarians. With aubergines and lentils both being low in calories and high in protein, carbohydrates and antitoxins, the dish contains all the nutrients necessary to carry any a veggie through those unforgiving icy days, especially when greens alone won’t suffice. Not to mention, with simple, readily available ingredients, it’s also a rather affordable alternative.

As a sizeable bake, the layered Tajine is an ideal choice for a large, festive dinner party. So, invite a few friends over, pick up a bottle of choice red – or perhaps some Glühwein to pair – and dig in.

Ingredients for Layered Aubergine Tajine with Lentils

  • 3 aubergines (eggplants), cut into slices 1cm thick
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 675 grams ricotta cheese
  • 200 grams mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese for topping, grated
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 12 cups tomato pasta sauce

For lentils:

  • 500 grams lentils, soaked overnight
  • 3 medium onions, finely diced
  • 2 small carrots, finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed and rubbed into a paste with a little salt
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • Parsley, chopped

Method (cooking time: 1.5 hours)

Sprinkle both sides of the aubergine slices with salt. Place in a colander and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat your over to 175°C. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Mix in egg and basil and season to taste. Rinse the aubergine in cold water until all salt is removed. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil on the stove top. Place one layer of aubergine slices on and brown each side. Repeat with remaining slices, using additional oil if necessary.

Lentil mix:

Combine lentils with water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain well. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring until the onions are soft. Add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped parsley, season and remove from heat.

Finishing:

In a baking tray, evenly spread 3 cups of tomato pasta sauce. Arrange a single layer of the aubergine slices on top of the sauce. Add a layer of the lentil mix. Top this with half of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layering process until all the aubergine and cheese mix is used. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the layers, and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese reserved for the topping. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is gratinated (not burned). Serve immediately.

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Looking for a snug spot to dine in the cold season? Read more about Rick’s Cafe Americain’s incredible winter deals.

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