A savoury cake-shaped meal made by layering sliced aubergines with a sumptuous egg, cheese and tomato flavoured rice.
This recipe borrows from the Mediterranean tradition of giving cheap everyday ingredients, like rice, their very own “ta-daa” moment.
How? By using the sticky starchiness of rice to create a cake-shaped timbale full of wholesome flavours.
What is a timbale? The word “timbale” in French or “timballe” in Italian is derived from the Arabic word for “drum” and refers to the customary round shape of the meal once it has been baked or set and turned out onto a serving dish.
RIce: Rather than use a high starch rice like risotto, I decided to use a basmati and wild rice combination. Long grain rice is firmer so to make up for its lower starch levels, I added egg to work as a binding agent. This helped the “cake” hold its shape when being portioned out.
Aubergines are really versatile, good for you and perfect for this recipe as they add a smooth texture and unique intense flavour to the tomato flavoured rice. They are also good for creating the layers as they retain their shape, even if a little wobbly looking!
Although it is customary in the UK to salt aubergines prior to cooking them, it is not necessary to do so if they are firm and fresh. For more information on aubergines click here.
My favourite aubergine anecdote refers to when they were first imported into England from Italy, hundreds of years ago. It was widely thought that eating them would make you go mad because their Italian name “melanzana” was wrongly interpreted as “mala insana,” which means mad apples in Italian. Hopefully you will not find yourself going “mala insana” trying to follow this recipe!
This dish keeps well overnight in the fridge and will taste even better the next day. It can be reheated in the microwave or eaten cold. To avoid the risk of food poisoning which can occur when eating leftover rice:
- cool any left over rice as quickly as possible by placing in fridge and keeping it for no more than 1 day until reheating.
- When reheating rice, always check that it is steaming hot, all the way through.
- Do not reheat rice more than once.
Serves 2 (or 4 as a side dish)
- 180 g rice
- 2 aubergines (weighing around 500g in total)
- 1 onion (diced)
- 1 carrot (diced)
- 1-2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
- 70 g grated hard cheese (I used a combination of parmesan and cheddar)
- 1 egg
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp chopped basil
- salt and pepper.
- Cook rice according to pack instructions. Set to one side when cooked.
- Fry the diced onion, carrot and garlic until it softens, then add the chopped tomatoes and basil and cook on a moderate heat for about twenty minutes.
- Slice the aubergines (around 1 cm thick). Baste with olive oil and grill on both sides. Set to one side.
- Beat egg and add it to the cooked tomato sauce, then stir in the rice and grated cheese.
- Preheat oven to 200C/180Fan/Gas mark 6. Lightly grease a round pyrex dish or cake tin with oil (around …..in diameter)
- Place some of the aubergine slices side by side on the base of the dish.
- Then cover the first layer of aubergine with about half the rice mixture and press it down firmly to make an even layer. Add the next layer of aubergine slices on top of this.
- Cover the aubergines with the remaining rice and press down the rice mixture firmly again.
- Bake in the preheated oven for around 30 to 40 minutes until firm.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for around 10 to 15 minutes. This is necessary to enable the timbale to retain its shape when turned out onto a plate.
- To remove from the dish, run a knife carefully around the edge. The timbale should then pop onto the plate quite easily. Allow to settle for a minute or two before serving.
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