If you love classic dishes like French ratatouille, Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, or the cheesy Italian parmigiana di melanzane, you’ll know that the hero ingredient in these is the aubergine. And whether you call it a brinjal or an eggplant, the curvy, purple spongy nightshade with its strange-looking appearance belies the myriad of ways it can be cooked and enjoyed.
They can take up to six months to grow (almost as long as a human fetus!), so make the most of them when they’re in season. In South Africa, that would be now! Look for ones with smooth and shiny skin that seem heavy for its size. To test for ripeness, lightly press your finger against the skin. If it leaves an imprint, the aubergine is ripe. Some varieties can be bitter, so to reduce this before cooking, sprinkle the flesh with salt and let it sit for an hour before washing them (a process called degorging).
We love aubergines because:
– They’re versatile – you can steam them, bake them, fry them or braai them.
– They soak up flavour really well.
– Their cooked texture offers a meaty richness that works perfectly in vegetarian dishes.
We’ve rounded up five recipes to cook when you find yourself with too many lurking in your kitchen this winter.