Lunches are pretty tricksy. I regularly go overboard and it turns into more of a bloated dinner, or, if I'm alone, a hilarious plate of scraps and a bowl of vegetable stock when realising there are too many leftovers to eat up to warrant making any else.
I cooked up this lunch when one of my best friends, Heather, came over. It works well because it's easy to make with someone else there, low maintenance as it's a bake and good for using up other things you might have in the fridge as it fits alongside other salads and grains. I have to credit Joe and Becca's dinners for the inspiration behind this- Joe has a way of making tomatoes and aubergines taste INCREDIBLE.
Use as much olive oil, seasoning and tomatoes as you can for this- it's supposed to be rich and eaten at the kind of lunch where you're not going to get anymore work done for the rest of the day, so if it gets washed down with red wine that also wouldn't be an issue...
Cherry tomato and aubergine bake
Makes enough for four
1 onion, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, chopped small
1 carrot, chopped small
Handful of basil stalks, chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 aubergine, cut into bitesize chunks
2 tbsp tomato paste
400g chopped tomatoes
300g or more of cherry tomatoes, cut sideways
Handful of basil leaves to top
Heat the olive oil in a large pan, before adding in the onions and cooking on a low heat for three minutes. Add in the garlic, carrot, basil stalks, chilli flakes, paprika and seasoning. Heat until the carrot is cooked and you can smell the basil from the stalks, then add in the aubergine chunks. Fry a little so they absorb the flavour of the mirepoix (the onions, carrots and in this case basil that I've used) and then add in the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer away for about 15 minutes- you can use this time to preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and track down an oven-proof dish to cook this in.
Once the mixture has reduced, poor into the dish and top off with the halved cherry tomatoes so that they cover the surface of the bake. Add a little more olive oil and seasoning, sprinkle on the basil leaves, and then bake for 20 minutes in the middle oven, or until the tops of the tomatoes start to crisp up.
Serve with hummus, couscous, salsa or just a good old fashioned leaf salad, and get back to catching up with your friends.