Oh my stars, this is a layered recipe on many levels! Judging by the amazing response I’ve had from taste tester friends, it was worth every minute of my glorious time in the kitchen! I made this dish over two days for the simple reason that I had other stuff on, and had to do it in shifts. Thing is, having created it, and tasted it, I would recommend a two-day process for this. I believe tomato sauce tastes best when allowed to hang out overnight, developing its flavours. The same rings true for the cashew cream. I made both of the sauces the day before and I believe the taste was all the better for it. I did the veg the next day and brought it all together in this really delicious layered bake. This recipe started off as Eggplant Parmesan. I took it a few steps further and added courgette and mushrooms. It is time consuming but if you have the time to put into it, I highly recommend it. I will admit, I was skeptical about using vegan “cheese”. The Daiya brand I used did not disappoint….now, to get this product in The Netherlands…hmmmm. Here it is, friends. I created the recipe based on layered bakes I have made over the past several years. I took from them what I know works for my taste buds. This is filled with veg and protein from the nuts. It is a hearty dish to fill belly and soul. Eat good food, xxx
For the Cashew Cream
- 2 c raw cashews soaked in 4 c of water for at least 4 hours or overnight
- 2 roasted red peppers (I got mine pickled, from a jar) (seeds and veins removed)
- 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
- 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 250 ml filtered water
- S&P to taste
And now create the cashew cream:
After soaking the cashews for at least four hours, drain and rinse, and place in a food processor (or high speed blender.) To begin breaking them down, whiz them around for about 15-20 seconds.Tear in the red pepper, press the garlic, add the nutritional yeast, turmeric and salt and pepper. Add about 200 ml of water and give this all a good spin in the processor. Add more water as the mixture begins to smooth out. You will need to keep your eye on this and add enough water so the consistency resembles thick yogurt. I caution you not to go too thin on this or your dish could be watery. When the cream comes together, pour into a bowl and set aside.
For the Coated Eggplant
- 3 medium eggplant
- 1 cup (scant) almond milk
- 1-1/3 cups (140grams) cornflake cereal crumbs (or breadcrumbs if using)
- 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp each dried thyme, and oregano
- S&P to taste
And now create the coated eggplant:
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and prepare 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.Slice the eggplant into .5 cm rounds and set aside. Pour one cup of almond milk into a small bowl. In a shallow bowl, or dinner plate, mix together the dry ingredients. Now, dip each piece of eggplant into the almond milk, and then coat on both sides with your crumb mixture. Place the rounds on the cookie sheet. Try not to have the eggplant touching each other or they will steam rather than bake.
Bake for 30 minutes, turning at the halfway mark. When softened to the touch, remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on top of a cooling rack to…. cool!
While your eggplant is baking, you can get the tomato sauce rolling.
For the Tomato Sauce
- 2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, finely sliced
- 1 good sized carrot, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 4 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 healthy Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup (shhhh! secret Canadian ingredient!)
- 2 tins 400 grams crushed tomatoes (rinse the tins with a bit of water after tipping out the tomatoes.)
- 1 bottle (mine was 700ml) tomato puree
- 3 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 Tbsp dried thyme
- S&P to taste
And now create the tomato sauce:
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté for about 8 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and soften for about a minute before adding the Dijon, maple syrup, tomatoes and herbs. Turn heat to low. Leave the lid off, and let this simmer away for a good 2-3 hours, stirring often enough to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- 1-2 medium courgette (how much you need will depend on how thinly you slice ‘em!) These, I just sliced very thinly, no cooking necessary. Set aside for layering.
- 200 grams shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and sliced as you wish (not too thick)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Sauté the mushrooms for about 10 minutes on low heat until softened, and set aside.
- 2-3 Tbs nutritional yeast
- 450 grams grated cheese – I used 225 grams each of DAIYA brand vegan mozzarella and vegan cheddar. If you are using cow’s milk cheese, I would suggest half mozzarella and half Monterrey Jack.
- Oven at 180C
- 9 x 13 tall rimmed baking dish, lightly oiled
- tomato sauce
- cashew cream
- baked eggplant
- grated cheese
- sliced courgette
- sliced and softened mushrooms
- handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- nutritional yeast
Putting it all together!
- Start by covering the bottom of the baking dish with about 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce. Lay on top of this, enough eggplant to cover the bottom of the dish. More tomato sauce on the eggplant, and then dollop the cashew cream on top of this and spread over the surface of the eggplant. Add the layer of mushrooms and sprinkle with a Tbsp of nutritional yeast. Add on a layer of grated cheese, and then courgette; then more tomato sauce, the shredded basil, and a second layer of eggplant. More tomato sauce, and more dollops of cashew cream. Sprinkle on about 1/3 of the grated cheese, add another layer of courgette and finish the dish with the last of the sauces and the last of the grated cheese and nutritional yeast.
- Phewf! Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until bubbling. When it is ready, remove from the oven and allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes before you cut into it. The melted cheeses need a bit of time to set before you dig in!
- Along side this dish, a simple salad of baby spinach leaves tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, would couple nicely.
- See the photo below for the “before” shot.