Or Aubergine, depending on your preference. I’m going with eggplant.
Local eggplants appeared on shelves quite early this year. I know from personal experience that garden grown varieties are not fruiting in any useful way until after Christmas, and as this hasn’t been an unusually warm summer, my guess is these are hot house grown (not much of a stretch to make I know).
Eggplants of different shapes and sizes feature in many of the world’s cuisine’s, through
Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, and Africa (broad definition there) down through Asia in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese food. Amongst many others I’m sure. Unlike, say, apples, which look much the same and are pretty universally recognisable, eggplants range from the large, dark purple beasts we see on supermarket shelves, down to tiny, green creatures that bear only the vaguest resemblance.
They are universally delicious though, both cooked very simply, of as a vehicle to carry other more robust flavours.
So how good are eggplants for you?
The brightly coloured skin of an eggplant contains a great deal of the many antioxidants this fruit has. So it’s worth eating this alongside the meaty interior.
- They’re high in fibre. One cup of eggplant provides 10% of your daily requirement.
- They’re high in anthocyanins, which is a kind of flavonoid (a powerful antioxidant). These reduce our risk of heart disease, and reduce blood pressure.
- They’re high in polyphenols. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how much I love this antioxidant. Polyphenols are good for intestinal health, and have anti-cancer benefits
- They’re high in nasunin, another antioxidant. This one protects brain cell membranes and so aids cognitive function.
- They’re low in calories. One cup is only 35 calories, and this combined with high fibre makes eggplants fantastic for weight management.
- They’re high in iron and calcium with assists with bone health and protects against anaemia.
How do I use them?
The first tip I would give, is that the days of needing to salt eggplant to remove the bitterness are gone. These days, breeding techniques have removed the bitter quality from commonly available fruit, making them far easier to work with.
The vast range of cuisines they’re used in means there’s a vast number of ways they can be used. Here’s a few from me:
- Make a simple Thai vegetable curry with red curry paste, onion, eggplant, and red
capsicum. Cook until vegetables are just cooked and curry is fragrant. Pour over vegetable stock and coconut cream. Bring to the boil, then season with equal parts fish stock and lime juice. Stir through a couple of sliced tomatoes, cook for a minute or so, then sprinkle over generous amounts of coriander.
- Slice eggplant into rounds, brush with olive oil, and season with sumac. Grill over high heat on barbecue or griddle pan until cooked.
- Make a babaganoush
- Mix together 1/2 cup miso paste, 1/4 cup mirin, a tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Halve asian eggplants lengthwise. Glaze with miso mix, and cook in a moderate oven, adding more glaze as you go, until eggplants are soft and caramelised.
- Replace pasta sheets for thin slices of fried eggplant in your favourite lasagne recipe.
- Make a simple wheat free canneloni by rolling ricotta mixed with steamed, chopped spinach, and a pinch of nutmeg up in this panfried eggplant slices (sliced lengthwise). Top with a good quality tomato passata, sprinkle over liberal amounts of parmesan, and cook in a moderate oven until bubbling and golden.
Or make a simple Caponata.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 eggplants, tops removed, sliced into wedges
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
Pinch chilli flakes
1/2 cup white wine
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp capers, drained
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Large handful basil leaves, torn
Extra virgin olive oil
- Heat olive oil over moderate heat.
- Add onions, garlic and chilli and saute until onions are soft
- Add eggplants, stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes
- Add white wine, allow to bubble up, then pour over tomatoes.
- Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, until liquid has reduced and sauce is thick
- Stir through capers and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another 2 minutes to soften vinegar slightly.
- Season to taste, stir through basil and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil.