Eggplant with crunchy parmesan and herbs

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Eggplants are a favourite of mine and I find their deep, shiny colour, complex flavour and silky texture quite compelling. For two summers I have grown eggplants in my vegetable patch and they have yielded sensationally. The fruit of the variety I grow is generally long and slender, although sometimes a big, round eggplant appears. They are not at all bitter so preparing and cooking them is very simple. Topped with breadcrumbs, herbs, olive oil, garlic and parmesan, they make a great starter or component of an antipasto selection. You could make this recipe with the typical rounder eggplant variety. Just slice horizontally and then pile on the topping.

Serves 4 as a starter

6 long slender eggplants (aubergine)
2 slices ciabatta
40g paremsan cheese
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (basil, flat leaf parsley and chives work well)
2 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 170 C. Put the bread, parmesan, garlic, herbs and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a food processor and process until you have fine, pale green breadcrumbs. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and lay onto a baking tray lined with silicon paper. Pile spoonfuls of the breadcrumb mix onto the cut surface of the eggplant and press gently to help the breadcrumbs stick. Drizzle over the other tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle over a good grind of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the eggplant flesh soft and silky. Serve hot or warm.

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