Our new chef Alessandro is working out really well and is making really authentic Italian dishes that even Paulo would be proud of:). He made soup yesterday with eggs, potatoes and tomato and although a few people did turn their nose up including one rather “nice” lady who made her thoughts on it very clear by telling us that it couldn’t be soup with eggs in it and that there was no way she was having it but if we had chicken and mushroom soup she would have it???we just smile and continue on but everyone else has been really positive so fingers crossed it continues. I have a good feeling about trying the more authentic Italian dishes as there seems to be such great interest and buzz around food in Ireland at the moment especially in relation to local producers, Farmer’s Markets, home-made food etc.

It’s amazing how much the food scene has changed in the last 4 years, it’s great to see the Farmer’s Market packed every Saturday morning and people just taking more interest in what they eat. There is talks of a permanent Market being set up in the city centre operating 6 days a week which would be great for Limerick and all the small producers that can’t afford to set up in business in a stand alone unit. I read in Food and Wine Magazine today that a special retail centre is being set up in Leitrim just for food producers that can’t afford to start their own business, I think this should become a focus everywhere in Ireland so that people have access to fresh, natural food. We wanted to make a fruit tart today but hadn’t ordered any fruit from our supplier so to buy fruit locally I had to go to a Supermarket and buy everything pre-packed. We have no local greengrocer which is such a shame but it is just not economically feasible to operate a little shop selling fruit and veg in a local area as the cost of running a small business in Ireland is just too high. Even take the restaurant and cafe scene in Limerick, every new restaurant I have been to lately has been part of a hotel – Hilton, The George, Marriott and The Absolute, very few family run restaurants open!! I think food centres or permanent Farmer’s markets are the way forward in order to change the eating habits of the majority. I think if there is access to fresh, home-made produce all under one roof more people might ditch the microwave dinners and fast food in place of local produce – it all comes down to time, access and education!!!

Alessandro decided to make this dish the other day to take home and pop in the oven and after 20 mins and no preparation you have a healthy, tasty nutritious dinner. He has loads of ideas for the take home dinners which we are starting once he has settled in, I’m going to try it out on a couple of people first just to see how it all works. I think this is one of the most popular dishes in Italian cuisine and Bru’s mom often makes it, I’ve helped her a couple of times but have never actually made it at home as it does take a little time.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR 4:

 – 2-3 large aubergines cut length ways into 5mm thick slices
 – 1 small onion chopped
 – 1 garlic clove chopped
 – 1 x 400g tin Italian plum tomatoes
 – 1 ball buffalo mozzarella sliced
 – fresh basil
 – 100g Parmesan cheese freshly grated
 – 4 tbsp olive oil
 – salt and pepper
 – 1 egg lightly beaten (optional)

WHAT TO DO:

 – place the aubergine slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for about 1 hour.

 – fill the base of a frying pan with olive oil and heat over a low heat, add the garlic and onion for a few minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the tomatoes and basil, season and leave to simmer for 20-25 mins until you have a thick sauce. Remove and pass through a sieve and discard the pulp. You could just make extra tomato sauce

and use it for this recipe too!

 – rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry. Heat the remaining olive oil in a pan, add the slices and fry until golden brown on each side. Remove with a fish slice and drain on kitchen paper.

 – pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

 – spoon a little of the tomato sauce into an ovenproof dish and arrange a layer of slightly overlapping aubergine slices on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan, cover with a few slices of mozzarella, sprinkle a few leaves of basil on top and some of the beaten egg if you are using it.

 – repeat this process until you have used all the ingredients and you should finish with a layer of aubergine with tomato sauce on top and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. 

 – bake in the oven for 30 mins and enjoy!!

BUON APPETITO!!

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