Butter bean and aubergine bake

Butter bean and aubergine bake (or butter bean and egg plant bake to our US friends) is a hearty recipe – not quite a casserole or stew it can be sliced for serving. A really good vegetarian and vegan recipe for a ‘traditional’ evening meal. On first glance this recipe might seem a little long winded and complicated but it is three fairly straightforward steps: aubergine, tomato mixture, white sauce and once it is in the oven you can crack on with other things. The butter bean and aubergine bake (butter bean and egg plant bake) goes well with mashed potato (for a really hearty meal) or a summer white salad (for a lighter meal).

Ingredients
Vegetable oil for frying
1 large aubergine
1 medium onion
1 courgette
1 tin butter beans
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
500 ml passata
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbs corn flour
500 ml unsweetened soya milk (or other unsweetened gfv milk)
2 bay leaves
100 g spinach

Method
1. Slice the aubergine in to 1-1.5 cm thick slices (circles)
2. Put about 1 cm oil in a 20–23 cm frying pan over a medium heat until the oil is hot. Add as many aubergine slices as the pan will hold in a single layer (do not crowd the pan). Cook until reddish-gold on one side. Then turn the slices over and continue frying until similarly coloured. Remove with a slotted spoon and spread out on a plate lined with kitchen paper
4. Cook the remaining aubergine in batches adding more oil to the pan if needed. Set the aubergine slices aside
5. You will need 1 tbs vegetable oil in the same pan. Add the finely chopped onion and cook for ~4 mins on a low heat
6. Slice the courgette and add to the pan with the onion and cook until browned. Add the drained butter beans, thyme sprigs and passata (use a few tbs warm water to get all of the passata from the container). Bring to a low simmer and cook for ~20 mins
7. In a small sauce pan add 1 tbs vegetable oil and put on a low heat
8. Skin and finely chop the garlic and add to the oil and cook for 1-2 mins (do not allow to colour). Then add the mustard powder and corn flour and cook for ~1 min
9. Slowly add the soya milk 2-3 tbs at a time being careful to make sure there are no lumps. Once all the soya milk has is in add the bay leaves – keep stirring while it thickens – and bring to a low simmer for ~2 mins
10. In a baking dish (~15 x 25 cm) place a very shallow layer of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the dish (to stop sticking). Then add a layer using half of the aubergine, a layer using half of spinach and a layer using half of the tomato mixture. Repeat so you have two layer of each
11. Top with the white sauce, season with salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated oven (190 C) for 40 mins.

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