How to cook with aubergineApril 8th, 2020
This is a vegetable you either love or loathe. If the latter, it could be that your distaste originated in poor preparation. The aubergine is one of the most delicious, rich and complex vegetables available. It’s also among the easiest to prepare. Keep it simple and if you do not have the luxury of picking them fresh, make sure you buy the best quality.
Five different cultivars are grown in our garden and after baking all five and tasting them, our favourite is the violetta lunga. A preferred way of cooking this veggie at home is to bake the aubergine whole as this yields soft flesh and requires no attention while cooking; the flesh also doesn’t discolour as it does when aubergines are sliced. No need to prick the skin, as it loses moisture that way. If the oven is set at the right temperature the aubergines shouldn’t pop and it’s worth taking this calculated risk.
Modern cultivars don’t need degorging (the salting and rinsing process) to extract bitterness. White varieties tend to have thick, tough skins and should always be peeled. Generally, however, peeling is not required.
HOW TO SELECT & STORE AUBERGINE
PICK OR SELECT
Choose a darker aubergine with its skin shiny, smooth and firm. Once it loses its shine, it gets bitter. The stalk should be bright green and the fruit should feel fairly heavy. Softly press on the skin: the indentation should bounce back to a smooth, firm skin.
Best in the salad drawer of the fridge. If the aubergine is large, the skin may be tough, so you may want to use a vegetable peeler.
Cooking methods for aubergine include baking, braising, grilling, frying roasting, steaming and stewing.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF AUBERGINE
High in dietary fibre and packed with folate, potassium, manganese,
vitamins C, K and B6, thiamin, niacin, panthothenic acid, magnesium,
phosphorus and copper.
WHAT TO PAIR WITH AUBERGINE
PROTEIN: anchovies / bacon or prosciutto / biltong / lamb / grilled meats such as beef, chicken and pork
PRODUCE: garlic / lemons / mushrooms / olives / onions / peppers / shallots / tomatoes / pears / coconut / pomegranates
HERBS AND SPICES: basil / chervil / mint / cumin / oregano / paprika / thyme rosemary
CONDIMENTS AND SAUCES: capers / balsamic vinegar / pesto / verjuice / red wine vinegar / soy sauce
DAIRY: chevin / Gruyère / mozzarella / Gorgonzola / farm-style mature cheddar / Parmesan / feta / ricotta / cream / crème fraîche / yoghurt
NUTS: walnuts / macadamia / peanuts / pine nuts
TIP: Leftover aubergine can be scooped out of the skin and kept in an airtight container and use as a spread or a sauce thickener.
ROSA BIANCA – Round fruit, purple in colour with white shading, or white. Its flesh is sweeter than other varieties and it contains very few seeds, making it ideal for cooking most dishes.
BLACK KING – Large and round, with shiny dark purple skin. Slightly bitter.
BLACK BEAUTY – Distinctive purple black fruit, similar to the black king, used widely in Mediterranean and Indian cooking.
LISTADA DI GANDIA – Pinker in colour with white stripes, and teardrop shaped, this is a beautiful variety. The flesh is creamy and rich, without a trace of bitterness.
VIOLETTA LUNGA – This is a classic Italian aubergine – long, smooth, with a dark violet skin, and moist, sweet flesh when cooked.
RECIPE: HOW TO | OVEN-BAKE WHOLE AUBERGINE
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wipe aubergine clean. Place on a baking tray and bake for 45-60 minutes until the skin feels soft and dents easily to the touch. Tear or slice open and serve seasoned with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
RECIPE IDEA: GRAINY MUSTARD STEAK AND CREAMY GORGONZOLA
Use any cut of steak such as rump, fillet, rib eye or sirloin. Prepare and cook the steak to your liking. ◗ Smear steak with grainy mustard. ◗ Top with a thick slice of cooked aubergine, a slice of ripe Gorgonzola and drizzle with olive oil. ◗ Place under a warm grill until the cheese starts melting. ◗ Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. ◗ Garnish with fresh fennel, and drizzle with Marsala wine, balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice.