Greatest recipes ever: Patience Gray’s aubergines

This book was first published in 1964 as a manual for cooks on passenger ships, so the recipes can be produced in limited space, using what’s available. In short, the original Mediterranean diet‘ Elisabeth Luard

Extract from Patience Gray’s
The Centaur’s Kitchen
Published by Prospect Books in 2005 and 2009

4 good-sized aubergines
3 large onions
2lb tomatoes


The chef takes a large shallow pan, and anoints the bottom of it with good olive oil. He slices the aubergines lengthwise in half, unpeeled, lays them bottom down in the pan and sprinkles them with salt and oil. (Aubergines are capable of absorbing a lot of oil.)

Recommended videos for you

On this bed of aubergines, he puts a layer of thickly sliced onions, the white variety with a sweet taste which cook quickly, and on top of that a layer of peeled and roughly chopped tomatoes. This is sprinkled with marjoram or thyme, and a little more salt.

He then pours on a very little water, a tablespoon of wine vinegar and sometimes a glass of wine (recommended), puts the lid on and sets the pan on a hot fire.

When it begins to steam, he lowers the heat and lets the contents cook slowly till the aubergines are soft, the onions tender and the tomatoes pulpy (20-30 minutes). It takes practice to hit upon the right proportion of oil and water.

The method of cooking is neither frying nor boiling. It is simmering in oil and water. The aubergines absorb most of the oil, the tomatoes provide a certain amount of juice, the water evaporates, and what is left is a nicely amalgamated onion and tomato sauce. What is required is the minimum of liquor to produce enough steam to achieve the cooking.

These aubergines are served hot with roast meat, good for instance with lamb, or cold as an hors d’oeuvre.

Elisabeth Luard’s books include European Peasant Cookery and Truffles.