Even though there are a few parts to this recipe, don’t let it put you off – it is relatively simple to put together and fun to make. I have regularly doubled this recipe and made it at dinner parties when eggplants are in season and it is sooo popular – I knew I was onto a winner when two of my biggest meat eating male friends said ‘This is outstanding – I would turn veggo for this!’
- 1 eggplant
- Olive Oil
- Salt and pepper
- 5 – 10 Kalamata olives optional
- Fresh basil leaves to serve
- 1 Large Onion
- Maple Syrup or Honey 2-3 Tbsp
- Slow cooked Tomato Sauce if making your own
- 2 – 3 cans of chopped tomatoes or one puree and other tomatoes
- a few cloves chopped garlic
- Tbsp maple syrup or coconut sugar
- Dried oregano or mixed Italian herbs
- Water as needed if you are slow cooking
Cashew Cheese Filling
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight and well rinsed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Garlic – to taste
- First up, the tomato sauce. If you wish to speed up the cooking process, it is fine to use a lovely quality ready made tomato pasta sauce. Ideally, make your own. I love a slow cooked tomato sauce (cook it for 3 – 4 hours) as it completely changes the depth of flavor. However you can cook this sauce for as little as 30 minutes and it is completely fine to use.
- Empty the 2 or 3 cans of tomatoes (can all be chopped tomatoes or use one can of tomato puree in too), a few cloves of finely chopped garlic and a tsp of dried herbs). Feel free to throw in some chopped fresh herbs like basil and parsley if you have them too. Heat on high until bubbling and then add the sweetener, salt and pepper and simmer for minimum of 30 mins until lovely and thick. You can also add other things to the sauce, such as a little splash of wine or preserved lemons for enhanced flavor.
- Once your sauce is underway, slice up the eggplant lengthways about ½ cm thick. Brush olive oil on both sides, line up on a tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in the oven at about 180°C, for 20 minutes or until soft and starting to golden. Make sure you don’t char as it needs to stay soft for rolling.
- Once eggplants in oven, start to caramelise the onion. Slice the onion in half-moons and add to a pan with a little olive oil. Once well softened add some honey or maple syrup and a little water. Then cook for five or ten mins longer until all golden and caramelised. Leave to cool.
- While you are keeping an eye on the onions and tomato sauce, the last thing to get ready is the cashew cheese. Put the rinsed cashews into a food processor with the juice of a lemon and one or two garlic cloves. Mix it to a lovely smooth consistency. Once ready, mix through the cooled caramelised onions.
- Ok, your work is done and you are ready to assemble! Once all the parts are ready, get out a rectangle or square baking dish. Put a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish so it is well covered. Divide the cashew cheese between the eggplant slices and pop about a tablespoon of the cheese into each slice and roll ‘cannelloni style’ into a nice neat roll. Place in rows in the dish. If using, pop the olives in between the rolls. Lastly drizzle more tomato sauce over each of the rolls and bake in a preheated oven (175 C) for about 20 minutes. Take out, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately from oven to dinner table. Enjoy with a gorgeous green salad and some greens (beans or asparagus) cooked with garlic and toasted almonds.