Deep Fried Aubergine with Ricotta and Sage

Wow your dinner party guests with this simple but sophisticated starter of fried aubergine, ricotta and sage.

From the book

Downtime: Deliciousness at Home by
Downtime: Deliciousness at Home
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Introduction

When I was rooting through the fridge for a snack one day, I found a few pieces of battered and fried aubergine left over from making the Aubergine Gratin on page 108 in my book. I topped them with creamy ricotta and crackly fried fresh sage leaves and I liked it so much I now make these all the time. The aubergine has a deliciously rich, salty flavour, and the two-stage frying process makes it extra crisp. This could easily become a light lunch or dinner if you leave the slices whole and top the cheese with a few slices of tomato and Ibérico ham, or even use two pieces of aubergine to make a sandwich.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium aubergine
1 tsp fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 litre rapeseed oil, for deep frying, as needed
30 fresh sage leaves
140g plain flour
3 large eggs
250g Pecorino romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
250g ricotta cheese
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

1. Cut the aubergine lengthwise into slices about 6 mm (. inch) thick. Lightly sprinkle on both sides with the 1 teaspoon salt (this will help draw out the liquid) and lay the slices on tea towels. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Wipe dry with the towels.

2. Pour enough oil into a large, heavy saucepan to come halfway up the sides and place over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Test the temperature of the oil with the end of a wooden spoon. When the oil is hot enough, bubbles will rise around the handle.Test the temperature of the oil with the end of a wooden spoon. When the oil is hot enough, bubbles will rise around the handle.

3. Line a plate with kitchen towels. A few at a time, add the sage leaves to the oil and fry until they are the shade of dark autumn leaves and a little transparent, just a few seconds. Immediately use a slotted spoon to transfer the sage to the kitchen towels to drain and cool. Don’t pile the leaves on top of each other, as that will cause them to lose their crispness.

4. Line a baking sheet with kitchen towels near the hob. In batches, carefully add 2 slices of the aubergine to the hot oil, using tongs to keep the slices fully submerged. Deep-fry until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the aubergine to the kitchen towels. Let the aubergine cool at least 5 minutes. Turn the temperature under the oil to low but don’t turn it off.

You are just partially cooking the aubergine at this point; without this step it might not cook all the way through when it is breaded and fried.

5. Put the flour in a wide, shallow bowl. Whisk the eggs in a second shallow bowl until well blended, then whisk in the grated cheese.

6. When you are ready to bread and fry the aubergine, reheat the oil until shimmering again (retest with your wooden spoon). Working near the hob, line up the aubergine, the bowl of flour and the egg mixture. Have a baking sheet or platter lined with fresh kitchen towels nearby. One at a time, coat the aubergine slices evenly in the flour, then in the egg and cheese mixture and carefully slide them into the hot oil. Fry the aubergine, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spatula or your tongs to transfer the aubergine to the kitchen towels. Once you have done the first couple of slices, you might feel comfortable cooking 2 to 4 slices at a time, but do not crowd the saucepan or they won’t fry properly.

7. Top the warm aubergine slices with the ricotta, fried sage, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Cut each slice into 2 or 3 pieces, arrange them on a platter and serve hot.

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