This takes a little skill – if the oil is too hot the crumbs will burn and the eggplant will be undercooked, but if it is not hot enough, the eggplant will absorb oil unnecessarily and become greasy. But get it right and the result is a gorgeous crunchy golden crust filled with meltingly tender, creamy eggplant with nice little bursts of chilli, mint and lemon. Cor!
1 small lemon 1 large eggplant (aubergine) (400g / 14 oz), sliced thinly 12 large mint leaves, roughly chopped ½-1 tsp chilli flakes 2 Tbsp standard flour 1 large (size 7) free-range egg Salt and flaky sea salt ½ cup panko crumbs, whizzed to a fine crumb in a blender ½ cup olive oil for frying
1 Slice off skin and all white pith from lemon using a small serrated knife. Cut flesh into segments by slicing in between the membranes, then chop segments into 4-5 pieces.
2 Sandwich 2 similar-sized slices of eggplant together with mint, a little chopped lemon flesh and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. Gently press together. Dust with flour. Beat egg with a pinch of salt, then brush eggplant sandwiches with beaten egg and coat in crumbs. Prepare the eggplant sandwiches one at a time and transfer to a cake rack as they are assembled; they can be prepared up to 2 hours before frying.
3 Heat oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over medium heat. Place a cake rack above a baking sheet (tray) lined with paper towels. Slip in eggplant sandwiches, as many as will fit in one layer, and fry on both sides until golden. Remove from oil and drain briefly on a cake rack. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.