At The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean we grow quite a variety of aubergines, from large glossy purple fruit to slender Asian varieties with varying coloured skins – lavender, white and striped are what you can expect to see through the season.
Known by various names including eggplant (European/American), bringjal (Indian), melanzane (Italian) and our preferred name aubergine (French) this member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family teams well with other members of the family – tomatoes, capsicums and potatoes – and grows on a vine like tomatoes and capsicums to which they have a similar habit.
Native to India, where it is thought that they have been cultivated for at least 4,000 years, it was the Arab traders during the Middle Ages who took them to the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Today, aubergines are popular in cuisines the world over including Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Asian.
While the different varieties do vary slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe aubergines as having a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture. In many recipes, aubergines fulfil the role of being a complementary ingredient that balances the surrounding flavours of the other more pronounced ingredients.
Aubergines are low in kilojoules, a good source of fibre, manganese, potassium and vitamins B1 and B6, in addition, the skin contains a powerful antioxidant called nasunin. Nasunin is believed to be good for brain health as it protects the fats in the brain cell membranes – so if you needed an excuse for eating aubergines –now you have it!
Availability: Summer to early autumn
SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING
- Selection: Choose fruit that are heavy for their size and are neither rock hard or squishy – they should be firm with just a little give when gently pressed. Another good indication of freshness is the calyx (the green leaves at the stem end), these should look fresh and green.
- Storage: Keep in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for 2-3 days – aubergines should not be washed or cut prior to storage as both will hasten deterioration. Once cut the flesh starts to oxidise.
- Preparation: Just prior to using, wash and dry, cut off green top, then halve, slice or chop as required for your dish. Make sure to use a sharp knife, as the skin of aubergines can be quite slippery. Some people still insist on salting aubergines as it is said to remove bitterness, but if the fruit is fresh this is not necessary unless making certain dishes such as some relishes and chutneys.
- Using: Aubergines can be steamed, sautéed, fried, roasted, baked, or grilled and when teamed with strong flavours will act as sponge and absorb them.
- Aubergine Sandwiches: Cut large aubergines into 1cm thick slices. Brush with garlic-infused olive oil and grill on a preheated barbecue for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden and tender. While the aubergine is cooking, cut tomatoes and mozzarella into 5mm thick slices. Place half the cooked aubergine slices on a baking tray lined with baking paper, then spread with a little tapenade and top with tomato and mozzarella slices and finally remaining aubergine slices. Bake in a preheated 180°C oven for 10-15 minutes or until mozzarella just starts to melt and sandwiches are heated through. Serve with a side of our macro/micro salad.
Recipes Using Aubergine/Eggplant