- First cut your aubergines into 2cm cubes. Spread them out in a colander and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Leave for a good 30 minutes so that the bitter juices can start to run out. Rinse and pat dry on kitchen paper.
- In a large frying pan, fry your onion and garlic gently in 3 tbsp of the olive oil. When they begin to soften, add 2 more tbsp of oil, heat through and then add your aubergine cubes. Fry these quite hot and fast until nicely browned and very tender. This can take a good 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, heat it through and add the tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar and a little salt and pepper. Cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until it cooks into a thick sauce which coats your aubergine.
- Meanwhile, make your bechamel. Heat your olive oil in a small pan, add the flour and stir for 1 minute over a low heat. Take off the heat and gradually add the milk a little at a time, until it is all added and you have a creamy mixture. Bring back to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season the sauce well and add a generous handful of grated cheese. Set aside.
- In a shallow oven dish, pour in your aubergine and tomatoes and spread out to even. Spoon over your bechamel and even out. Finally, mix your breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan and scatter thickly over the dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the oven at 200C/180F/Gas 6 for 20-30 minutes, until nicely browned.
Adapted from a recipe in Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food