Melanzane Veronese (Verona-style Aubergines)


Last week was joyously punctuated by a couple of splendid nights strolling through Verona, all the while thumbing my nose at gout through whilst indulging in majestic consumption. One dinner was prefaced with Franciacorta (the champenoise sparkler from the 'handkerchief' sized production area near Lago D’iseo east of Milan) taken overlooking the Adige river in an unremarkable bar with an astounding terrace, a base camp from which we hiked up the hill to Re Teodorico. The steps were conquered (in the manner of Rocky but with more panting and sweating) and a trendy new restaurant/cocktail bar/nightclub exclusively populated with lithe and fey pretty young Italians was soon overrun by a glutton (my collective noun) of power-eaters. An outside table was requested, and duly appeared Goodfellas style, and we settled in to the amazing view.

More bubbles, Durello from the hills around Verona, to further stimulate the appetite (and precipitate a hangover, why must I always mix?) and the food begins to arrive in those relatively small rectangular plates which make you feel like you could eat forever, a gastronomic Sisyphus.


First up, Morbida polenta gialla con noci di capasanta and lucky for me one of my co-diners isn’t fond of seafood so I take his portion and I push the twin beds of polenta together to make double with a great fat scallop in each side under a paper thin squid ink flavoured bed sheet. Millefoglie di pescatrice con verdure e salsa di crostacei is missing 997 sheets but the filo 3 (top, middle, bottom) perfectly balance the vegetables and crustacean sauce. The wine drinking, until now steadily impressive, shifts up a gear, and we are motoring through the Zenato Valpolicella Superiore. My limited recollection becomes even more severely hampered (and I forget to take photos again). Insalata di magatello con primizie dell'orto e pane profumato which I can’t remember but definitely ate is quickly followed by (another) Millefoglie di mozzarella campana con pomodoro e la sua "pappa" which had mozzarella in it. I may have had a risotto and then a short break before they roll out Maltagliati con ragout di carni di cortile e sbriciolata di porcini, “badly cut pasta with ragout of hand chopped meat and a crumble of penny buns”. It’s a triumph (because I remember eating it).


The majority skip dessert in favour of groaning and rubbing their distended paunches but I cannot overlook "Pensiero Stupendo" una creazione dello Chef Leonard Belluzzo dedicata al cioccolato - “georgeous thought dedicated to chocolate” and my seafood averse colleague orders something with fruit of which I eat half (heartedly) before enquiring where the chocolate is. We swap plates, embarrassed first-daters, and I polish off Chef Len’s creation then body-swerve the Grappa in favour of a camomile and mint tea and I’m done.



Next day, CRASH!! I’m back home. Lovely wife has been wrangling 2 children whilst juggling a job and the house and fridge is full of rotting fruit, weary discoloured veg and out of date cheese; thus is born “Melanzane Veronese”. Chop the dry and malformed onion ends in the bottom of the fridge and fry in lots of olive oil with antibacterial garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and rosemary. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and some squishy browning cherry toms without looking too closely at them. Simmer for 15 minutes to kill the bugs, then throw in a big handful of Cuquillo olives for flavour and to reduce microbiological loading. Slice 3 sad and saggy brown aubergines and griddle them back to health. Slice out of date mozzarella and grate those ends of blue (was it blue to begin with?), the soft white rind (possibly sheep) and the fractured yellow thing that might have been cheddar. Layer tomatoes, aubergines, cheese mix. Repeat. Top with more cheese mix. Bake for 30 minutes @ 180 degrees. Eat whilst hot to mask potentially rancid flavours. Accompany with well dressed (balsamic and olive oil) little gems topped with grated Grana Padano. There were no casualties.