What the heck is an auberger? I hear you ask. The secret of the name is that these little beauties look a bit like a normal burger – two thick slices of aubergine are fried in crispy golden breadcrumbs, then sandwiched with melting mozzarella in the middle. The sweet, buttery flavour of the aubergine is blissful with the rich, creamy cheese, and the addition of a little homemade tomato sauce makes the dreamy combination complete.

1 large aubergine (pick a fat one, rather than a long one, so that you get nice big slices)
1 ball of mozzarella
A couple of slices of bread
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 egg
1 carton of passata
Sweet chilli sauce
Salad and gnocchi, to serve

Serves 3-4, depending on the size of the aubergine

Start by making your breadcrumbs – if you’ve got a blender or even a hand-blender (click here for my kitchen equipment tips), you can use that to speed things up, but otherwise, leave your bread out for a couple of hours to let it go stale and then break it up with your fingers. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and crush in the garlic, then mix well. Pour the breadcrumbs onto a plate and spread them out a bit, and then put your frying pan on the heat and add a good slug of olive oil.

Cut your aubergine into thick slices, about  1cm wide – don’t forget that you need two slices per person! – and carefully pare off the skin (you can eat the skin, of course, but it can sometimes be a bit chewy). Break the egg into a little bowl and beat it quickly with a fork, then dip each slice into the egg, let the excess drip off, and coat the slice with breadcrumbs, making sure there aren’t any gaps. The raw egg might seem a bit distasteful but it helps the breadcrumbs to stick - you won’t be able to taste the egg in the finished dish.

By now your frying pan should be good and hot, so put the slices straight in. Leave them to sizzle for a couple of minutes without poking them too much (you don’t want the breadcrumbs coming off in the pan) and then carefully turn them over. Preheat your oven to 180˚C.

Once the aubergine slices are nicely golden on both sides, take your frying pan off the heat. Place a generous piece of mozzarella on top of half the slices, then add the other half on top. Transfer to a baking tray and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes or so to allow the mozzarella to melt.

I like to serve this with crispy fried gnocchi and a bit of salad – frying gnocchi is a little gem of an idea from Nigella Lawson’s book Kitchen, and if you’ve never tried it you really must! It creates the most wonderful little roasties, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. If you fancy it, now’s the time to get them cooking – pop them in a frying pan on a medium heat, with a dab of butter and a sprinkling of salt, and toss them every now and then to get the sides browned evenly.

To make the tomato sauce, simply heat some good-quality passata in a small pan, then season and add some sweet chilli sauce (I love this stuff – it’s the perfect ingredient for pepping up all kinds of sauces and stews).

Once the gnocchi are ready, the aubergers should be, too – the mozzarella should be melting and drooping inside, but don’t leave it until it’s actually started to pour out and sizzle on the baking tray! Whip them out and serve as soon as possible, while they’re still hot, with a dollop of tomato sauce, a pile of crisp golden gnocchi and a bit of salad. Delicious!