Did you know one of Princess Diana’s favourite things to eat was stuffed aubergines?
“This dish brings back fond memories of my days in the Princess of Wales’ kitchen. Stuffed aubergines ….was one of the Princess’s favourite dishes. More often than not she’d request that I leave an extra serving in the refrigerator for her to reheat on the weekend. That was alright; this is one of those dishes that seems to improve with age and can be prepared ahead of time.”
-Darren McGrady, Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen
In February I went to go and look at the exhibition of Princess Diana’s dresses at Kensington Palace.
There was a slide show of photographs from all the charity work she did, and although taken by different photographers, in different countries and at different times, all showed a deeply empathetic woman, someone who truly cared about those she was helping.
Of course the dresses were also lush. I know this is a food blog, so forgive me if I insert a few of the fashion delights on show below:
But Saucy Dressings is a food blog, so naturally enough I began to wonder what Princess Diana used to like eating. The exhibition was really all about her clothes, so I researched further afield and finally came up with Darren McGrady’s book, Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen. You might expect the recipes cooked for royalty to be over-fussy, or difficult but I’ve tried quite a few and found them easy and accessible.
When it came to this one, however, I made quite a few changes. I’ve swapped the mozzarella for mild gorgonzola for example; and to reduce the work and add a little extra taste, I’ve used tomato paste instead of tomato.
In any case, as McGrady comments, this is an incredibly useful recipe – you can make it ahead of time; you can freeze it (wrap in foil); and it’s good on its own, or as part of a lunch spread with cold ham or prosciutto, or as an accompaniment – it goes particularly well with piccatina di vitello al limone.
Recipe for stuffed aubergines
- 2 small aubergines
- Olive oil
- 1 small courgette
- 1 orange or yellow pepper
- 1 red onion
- 2 medium mushrooms
- 70g/3 oz lardons
- 100g/4 oz gorgonzola dolce (or the type cut with mascarpone)
- 4 tbsps tomato paste
- 4 tbsps thick balsamic vinegar
- Basil leaves
- 100g/4 oz – two or three slices wholesome bread
- 25g/1 oz/a packet flat-leaved parsley
- 6 fat cloves of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
- Generous grinds of black pepper (in fact I used Urfa pepper flakes)
- 120ml/½ cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- Cut the aubergines down vertically.
- Cut down around the perimeter of each half about a cm or so, or half an inch in, down to just short of the bottom. Score inside your border with a criss cross pattern, down about an inch.
- Drizzle over each half some olive oil – about a tablespoon for each half.
- Bake, cut side up for ten minutes; then turn over and bake for another ten minutes. Leave the oven on.
- Meanwhile, peel and chop the red onion, and fry gently together with the lardons.
- Deseed and chop the pepper, add to the frying pan.
- Meanwhile, make the garlicky breadcrumbs – in an electric chopper or blender put the bread and the parsley (including the stems) and blitz until it is breadcrumbs.
- Peel and crush the garlic with the salt, and add that to the breadcrumbs – pulse again. Pour in the olive oil. Mix.
- Then chop the courgette and add that to the frying pan, together with the peeled and chopped mushrooms. Grind over some black pepper – or use a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes.
- Finally add the tomato paste and the balsamic vinegar to the frying pan and snip in the basil.
- Take the aubergines out of the oven, if you haven’t already, and gouge out the flesh, leaving some to line the skin. Chop the flesh and add to the frying pan.
- Stuff the aubergine skins with the mixed fried vegetables.
- Divide the cheese between the aubergines. Return to the oven for five minutes.
- Top with the garlic breadcrumbs (you will only need about half of them – but there are loads of other things to do with them – follow this link for more on that) and return to the oven for another five minutes.
This post is dedicated to Bryony Cohen.
Music to listen to while you cook
Apparently, Princess Diana’s favourite music was the soundtrack to Zeffirelli’s film, Romeo and Juliet, so here it is to keep you entertained as you make this lovely dish.