Warm up with this hearty aubergine cannelloni bake


The weather’s definitely chills … so tonight we’re eating a hearty aubergine cannelloni bake courtesy of Makgadi Itsweng – chef, food activist and former food editor of True Love magazine. Her recipe from her debut cookbook, Veggielicious is hearty and delicious enough to please those who usually sniff at veggie offerings.

We had a Q&A chat with Makgadi -on how she got involved in the Eat Out awards, her choice of a plant-based lifestyle, and her garden (and then dinner is served … her yummy Aubergine Cannelloni Bake).

How did you get involved in the awards, and what does it entail for you? Any favourites you’re allowed to mention?
I have been a reviewer for Eat Out for the past six years, since my days as Truelove Food Editor so have been involved with Eat Out for that long. So when asked to join this year’s panel as a judge, I jumped at the opportunity to celebrate chefs and their offering, after a terrible two years of Covid, which affected the restaurant industry so profoundly. I don’t really have a favourite, as I believe that each restaurant is special and has something different to offer

Tell us about your choice of a plant-based lifestyle.
I have been following the plant-based lifestyle  for more than 10 years now. I suffer from food allergies and this became the catalyst for my lifestyle change, as I realised that the food I was consuming was triggering allergies in my body. It is only when I went plant-based that I stopped using antihistamines and my body started healing itself. This has been a difficult journey in that when I chose this way of eating years ago, there were very limited food options available to me. Vegetables are always seen as an accompaniment for meat and never as a main dish. So I struggled when eating out.

Does your family also follow a plant-based lifestyle?
My family is flexitarian, which means they occasionally eat meat, eggs and dairy. They are more conscious also of the kind of meat they eat as they have been with me, through my journey of healing

How long have you been a keen gardener? Joys and pitfalls?
I have been gardening for six years now, I love the peace and healing gardening gives me. Something profound happens to you when you are in the garden digging into the soil and connecting with mother nature. It is my time to think, to dream and to de-stress. It is also a very physical activity, so it is my exercise time. Like any gardener will tell you, gardening is very addictive, once you get the green fingers, you are hooked for life, that is the only pitfall in gardening

One of the best ways to enjoy brinjals. The vegetables blend very well with the sauce. Serves four to six.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli or cauliflower finely chopped.
  • 1 cup spinach leaves finely chopped.
  • 2 large aubergines, sliced lengthways into thin slices (reserve the small offcuts for the sauce)
  • 2 large zucchinis, sliced lengthways into thin slices (reserve the small offcuts for the sauce)
  • 1 cup smooth cottage cheese or vegan cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated.
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes.
  • Handful fresh basil
  • ½ cup veg stock.
  • Seasoning salt to taste

To make:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Heat oil in a pan, then add the chopped broccoli, spinach, aubergine and zucchini offcuts, cook on medium to high heat for 5inutes until tender. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slightly, then add the cheese and set aside.
  3. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then dry fry the aubergine and zucchini slices for 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden. Fry all the slices, remove from pan and set aside.
  4. In the same pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add garlic. Pour the chopped tomatoes, stock and cook for 5minutes at medium heat, then add the chopped basil. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat, set aside.
  5. On a clean surface, spoon a tablespoon of broccoli and cheese mixture in the centre of the aubergine slice. Roll up the aubergine slice to form a tube with the cheese mixture intact inside the aubergine. Take the zucchini slice and wrap it around the aubergine rolls, securing them in place. Do the rolls until all the aubergines, filling and zucchini are used up.
  6. In a baking dish, spoon over all the tomato and basil sauce. Place the aubergine and zucchini rolls into the sauce with the loose end of the roll facing down.
  7. Bake the cannelloni for 30-35 minutes until the sauce has reduced and the aubergine rolls are golden.
  8. Serve warm with crusty bread or a green salad.