Aubergine/Eggplant – the king of vegetables

My friend Gill just can’t pass an aubergine in the supermarket .  Who could blame her?

That alluring smooth roundness with a rich chocolate-purple skin would tempt most of us to reach out and add one or two to our shopping trolley.   Gill’s first inclination is to make ratatouille but wants some new inspiration for aubergine or eggplant dishes.

Gus bakes fresh bread each day for the Whitehouse Restaurant

I knew just who to ask about aubergines.  My son Gus works as a chef at the Whitehouse Cafe in Wanaka and he uses aubergines a lot.   I am proud to introduce Gus as my first guest blogger.

 Gus’s Aubergine

Cut down the middle, score in a criss-cross pattern and salt – a good pinch per half.

Tap flesh side down on a bench to get out moisture, then pat dry with paper towel.

Brush halves with herb oil (Rosemary or thyme) that has had garlic blended with the oil.   Rub with sweet patrika and bake flesh down.   Make sure there is plenty of oil or they will stick and burn. Cook at 180-200 for 20-30 minutes until they don’t bounce back when poked with your finger (same test as for cooking a fish fillet).

Now top with whatever you like.   At the Whitehouse we use braised lamb and soft Peccareno cheese Return to the oven to heat through and melt cheese.

Thank you Gus.

Gus Hayden can be found cooking at the Whitehouse Cafe and Bar in Wanaka most evenings.  He was first introduced to cooking to finance his other passion, snowboarding.  Gus says he is lucky to be able to live and work in Wanaka.  He loves preserving like his grandmother did using the old Agee jars (and is becoming known in the Otago second hand shops as ‘the jar man’).  He produces beautiful bottled Central Otago apricots, cordials, curds, quince paste, chilli sauces and various pickles.  We are the lucky ones who get supplies each time he comes home to Dunedin.

Whitehouse Cafe & Bar, 33 Dunmore Street, opp
the Domain, Wanaka, Ph 03 4439595

So if you are travelling to Wanaka this summer call in and say hi to our Gus.

Aubergine has a taste and texture that is unique.   I have discovered that it not only looks good, but it is good for you.   It assists in getting rid of harmful cholesterol and provides antioxidants that help prevent cancer cells forming.    Some research has even pointed to Aubergine assisting you in losing weight (until you add that olive oil I guess!).  You can find out more nutritional information on this site:
Whole Foods – aubergine health properties

Aubergine is a sponge for flavours, so works very well in a curry with all those spices.  It’s also appropriate as the plant originated in the Indian sub-continent and is known in Asia as Bagan Brinjal.

I discovered a curry recipe from  My Darling Sweet Lemon Thyme.   This blog is written by Emma Galloway, formerly of Raglan now living in Perth.   Emma is a young mum who cooks gluten and dairy free food for her family with food allergies.  She has worked professionally in a kitchen and I must say her site is inspiring.

Eggplant Curry – a simple quick dish that even improves for the next day

Eggplant Curry from My Darling Lemon Thyme Blog  (Click here to get the Curry recipe)

The only alteration I made to this recipe was to finely cut up the garlic rather than crushing, doubled the tumeric because it’s a spice that’s so good for you, and used a can of tomatoes and half a can of water.   Emma was right it did taste even better the next day.
Eggplant curry served on rice, topped with onion and chopped coriander

How to Choose Your Aubergine

When picking your aubergine make sure it has a glossy skin with no spots or marks, the green top looks  fresh and if possible still has a stem.   To test if it is ripe push the flesh and if it bounces back it is ripe.  If the indent stays – its not yet ready for eating.   If it comes wrapped in plastic take that off as soon as possible.  They are so decorative that I usually don’t put them away in the fridge but that does keep them for longer.

To Salt or Not to Salt…..

Botanically Aubergine is actually a berry and the brown spots
are its seeds

The new varieties of aubergine doesnt tend to be as bitter as those in the past and won’t need “degorging” (salting, rinsing and patting dry).  If your aubergine has a lot of the dark seeds it will have a bitterness that comes from the nicotinoid alkaloids found in the brown seeds.   Yes there is nictotine in eggplant but you would have to eat 9 kg of eggplant to equal the nictotine of one cigarette. 

Salting will however soften the fruit and will lessen the amount of oil you will need to use to cook it.  

River Cottage veg everyday!

 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s latest book Veg Everyday matches his recent series tv series when he gave up eating meat to explore the possibilities of vegetables.      We too have recently decided to make more meals vegetarian and this book has enticing vegetarian recipes.   It’s not that I am  against meat it’s just that the more I learn about the benefits of vegetables the more I want to use them.  I love the way Hugh lays out and describes the methods of cooking and gives suggested variations to a recipe.  I looked up aubergine and there were three recipes that I would like to try.  So one more ‘Hugh’ book has found a place on my recipe bookshelves.

A page out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s – River Cottage veg everyday!

This is one of the recipes I would like to try from Veg Everyday.   It’s simple – just roast 2 cubed aubergines with potatoes in hot oil, adding chopped garlic in the final 10 minutes and just before serving add lemon juice, sweet paprika (like Gus did) and chopped herbs.   Hugh also suggests adding another eggplant and replacing the potatoes with chickpeas in the final ten minutes of cooking.
Looks delicious and I will definitely try this the next time I get an eggplant or aubergine.

Aubergine is also called Eggplant as the cultivars introduced to Britain were yellow or white and the size of a goose egg.  “Jew’s Apple” was another name in the 18th century, because of its great popularity amongst Jews who may have introduced it to Britain.   
Thank you Gill for encouraging me to look for fresh ideas for Aubergines/Eggplants.   The regal purple aubergine certainly deserves the title King of the Vegetables

I have had some feedback from friends who want to add a comment but cannot unless they are on gmail.   If you would like to add a comment just send me an email (until I get this problem sorted).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s