11 October 2018

Gratin d'aubergines et de pommes de terre

In a book about Moroccan tajines (spicy stews) that I've had for a few years now, I recently noticed a recipe for eggplant (aubergines) that tempted me. I read it and thought about it for a couple of days, and it dawned on me that it didn't have any Moroccan spices in it. Those were easy to add and they really livened the tomatoes up.

Thinking about how tajines are often sweet and spicy at the same time, and how there's a recipe in the book for chicken with tomatoes and honey — I've made that before —  I decided to add a big spoonful or two of honey to the spicy tomato sauce I was making for this gratin. It worked really well. And since I had some ground veal in the freezer, I thought: why not make this a meat sauce and turn it into a full meal? There's no cheese in it, but we ended up grating some parmesan over it at the table.

Instead of frying or even baking eggplant slices, Walt browned and partially cooked them on the barbecue grill out on the terrace. That added really good flavor to the dish. The recipe turns out to be a kind of Moroccan-spiced lasagna with layers of sliced, pre-cooked potato in the place of pasta.

Moroccan eggplant and potatoes
au gratin

2 large eggplants (aubergines)
2 or more large potatoes
5 tomatoes
3 onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 Tbsp. honey (to taste)
3 parsley stalks
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. olive oil
optional: oil for frying
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
ras-el-hanout spices to taste

Cut the eggplants into slices and brush the slices with olive oil. Cook them on the barbecue grill or on a baking sheet in the oven. It’s messier, but you can also fry them in a non-stick pan on the stove.

Wash the potatoes and boil or steam them until they are mostly done but still firm. When they’ve cooled down, peel them and cut them into slices.

Peel and onions and the garlic cloves. Cut the onions into slices. Dice, mash, or slice the garlic cloves. Optionally, peel the tomatoes by dropping them for a few seconds into boiling water, putting them into cold water to cool down, and then slipping the skins off.

Make tomato sauce: sweat the onions and tomatoes together in olive oil in a frying pan, and then add the garlic and parsley. Add salt and pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Season the mixture with ras-el-hanout spices and some cayenne pepper (don't overdo it) and let it cook for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF). When the tomato sauce is cooked, put a layer of it in the bottom of a baking dish. Over it put alternating layers of potatoes, eggplant, and sauce, finishing with a layer of tomato sauce. If all the ingredients are hot, slide the dish into the oven and let it cook for 5 minutes. If the ingredients are cold, slide the dish into the hot oven, and gradually turn the heat down so that the ingredients heat through without burning on the bottom or top.

P.S. My store-bought, imported ras-el-hanout
spice blend contains:

   • curry (curry)
   • coriander seeds (coriandre)
   • cumin (cumin)
   • salt (sel)
   • carraway (carvi)
   • turmeric (curcuma)
   • corn starch (farine de mais)
   • piment fort (hot red pepper)
   • cayenne (cayenne pepper)

Modify freely...


  1. What difference is there between cornstarch fécule de maïs ou "Maïzéna" and corn flour farine de maïs? Is it just the refining of the milling process?

    Apart from the Ras el Hanout and honey, your dish (looking scrumptious) reminds me of my own aubergines à la sauce tomate that I used to cook in Salton City.

    It's a very good idea to use sliced potatoes. It must give body to the dish. In my case, I used ham.

  2. To make cornstarch the hull of the corn kernel is removed and so is the germ (the embryo). The endosperm is the starchy filling of the corn kernel that remains. It is boiled and then the liquid is evaporated, leaving the white starch behind.

    Cornstarch is called "corn flour" in the U.K. and other countries, but it isn't actually a flour.

    Cornmeal is ground corn kernels. It can be finely ground to make a flour, or it can be more coarsely ground to make what is called a meal. What is the difference is between yellow cornmeal (a.k.a. polenta) and white American grits?

    1. Thank you for the clarification. Semantics!

      As usual, before asking my question, I should have asked M. Google, which I just did. Now, I'm more confused than ever. Meal and flour are not the same, even though I get a translation of farine for both. For cornmeal, I get semoule de maïs, which makes a lot of sense because it is coarser than regular flour. Cornstarch, as I said above, is fécule de maïs and is not a kind of flour. So, can I say farine de maïs for corn flour and not misunderstood for Maïzéna?

      In my so-caled "Japanese bread", I've been using recently some semolina. I don't see any difference to speak of!

  3. I'm glad that chm asked about the farine de maïs, because I'm sure that, had I been making this dish, I would have mistakenly assumed that it was corn meal, and never thought of it being corn starch. We live and learn!

  4. The dish looks delicious. I'd never heard of ras-el-hanout; I'm glad to learn about it as I'm sure we can find it here. There are many Persian and middle eastern markets nearby.

  5. My husband loved eggplant and I did not. But I learned to make dishes that he loved .. and now, funnily enough, although he is no longer here, I enjoy eggplant. I like making it in tomato sauce and using it as pasta sauce ..

  6. You come up with some terrific recipes, Ken. I hope your friends/family in Panama City are OK. The brunt of the storm hit Mexico Beach I think and it looks awful.

    1. My friend Vickie and her husband Ron live in Pensacola. She's the one who spent a few years in Anniston back in the 1980s. We went to high school together. Vickie's brother Mark, who is younger, lived in or near Panama City, the last I knew. I too hope they are all okay.

  7. Another delicious looking inspiration. Hoping all is well as may be where the hurricane hit.

  8. With aubergines playing such an important role, you could consider it a "relative" of something else - and call it "Moussaka à la marocaine".


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?