We explain what to do with a seasonal favourite.
What is it?
Eggplant (or aubergine if you're French) is a gorgeous, glossy purple vege that like tomato, is actually a fruit in disguise. There are many varieties of eggplant ranging from the tiny, marble-sized Thai eggplant to long, thin, green-yellow ones, but the most familiar and available is the large dark purple pear-shaped variety. Eggplant is common in southern Europe where it is used in classic dishes such as moussaka (Greece) and ratatouille (France). Right now eggplants are plentiful and cheap, so why not add them to your vegetable roster?
Where do I get it?
Look for eggplant in the produce section in the supermarket and at the greengrocer. Pick heavy, glossy eggplants with no brown spots on the skin.
Ideas for using eggplant
Eggplant has a mild flavour that works well with tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. It's also great with Asian and Middle Eastern spices. This is one vege that needs to be well cooked; it's not so tasty when still crispy. Here are some quick, simple and tasty ways to use eggplant:
- Cut eggplant into cubes and stir-fry until soft. Add canned diced tomatoes and a chopped capsicum and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve as a side dish with barbecued lamb.
- Add slices of eggplant to your meat or vege lasagna recipe – you can even use eggplant instead of pasta for something different. Bake as usual.
- Stir-fry cubes of eggplant with green beans in a little sesame oil, garlic and ginger until the eggplant is soft and tender. Add a dash of soy sauce and chilli if you like it at the end. Serve with grilled meat as a side dish, or over rice with tofu or chicken.
- Make a healthy, easy eggplant parmigiana: take slices of eggplant (about 1cm thick) and layer in a baking dish with tomato pasta sauce and a light sprinkle of parmesan. Top with parmesan, cottage cheese and wholemeal breadcrumbs and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
- For a delicious dip, take a whole eggplant, stabbed a few times with a knife, and cook in a hot oven or on a barbecue grill until soft and collapsing. When cool, scoop the flesh out of the skin and mix with cumin, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and tahini if you have it. Blend or mash together and serve with toasted pita bread.
Tip: Many eggplant recipes call for the cut eggplant to be salted, drained and rinsed. This is to remove bitterness. But only very ripe eggplant tends to be bitter, so it's usually fine to miss this step out.