My friend Ania has this pizza she likes to make after work on Saturdays. It’s simple. She takes two frozen store-bought margarita pizzas, dumps a heap of grilled eggplant (aubergine for our non-Aussie friends) on top, and then silence descends as we greedily scoff down an entire pizza each.
Which I suppose is evidence enough that they’re freaking delicious. But I wasn’t satisfied.
I wanted more protein, dammit, lest my hair fall out due to deficiency. Plus, I was keen to try a cheese-free version.
So, I wondered: what about innocuous little white beans? They’re like the tofu of the bean world. (Except that tofu, coming from soybeans, is probably the tofu of the bean world. Whatevs.) White beans are near flavorless, subtle, malleable, and happy to play second fiddle to other bolder flavours while still packing a protein punch.
Ding ding ding! Winner!
What goes in:
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
2 garlic gloves
200g white beans, precooked (I used a jar of cannellini beans)
150g tomato paste
2 frozen pizza bases (even better: make your own if you can be bothered)
Rocket lettuce leaves (optional)
How you do it:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Chop the eggplant into small, one-centimetre cubes. Warm a dollop of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the eggplant, splash generously with more oil and a sprinkling of salt, and fry until soft and golden around the edges. This will probably take around 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse then roughly mash the white beans with a fork. Chop the garlic and stir through.
Once the eggplant is ready, take your bases from the freezer. Spread a couple tablespoons of tomato paste across each base. Spread half the white bean mixture across each base. Top with fried eggplant.
Pop the pizzas in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Straight onto the wire racks is best for a crispy base.
To serve, sprinkle each pizza with dried oregano and, for a hit of healthy greens, top with rocket lettuce leaves.
We taste-tested the recipe on Ania’s Spanish flatmate Miguel, who though happy to partake in vegan fare is nonetheless a staunch meat- and dairy-eater.
“Guess what type of cheese it is,” we taunted. “Sheep … ?” he questioned.
“Kangaroo!” Ania put forth, her eyes shining at the joke. “My parents sent it over from Australia,” I chimed in.
He seemed to half believe us, poor sod. Which I reckon is a ringing endorsement of just how good this trick is – your cheese-eating mates could well be none the wiser.
So there you go. With a little creativity, we easily veganised (is that even a word?) and healthisised (that’s definitely not a word) one of our fave meals.