Although this dark and mysterious vegetable (or technically a fruit) is not normally top of everyone’s shopping list, delve beneath its glossy purple exterior and you find a food bursting with potential. High in antioxidants, potassium and dietary fibre, it’s a healthy addition to anyone’s diet; aubergine’s unique texture and flavour also make it a great choice for vegetarians or vegans because its meaty flesh helps adds a bit of variety to a meat-free diet.
Admittedly, it can be difficult to know what to do with this unusual, almost exotic ingredient: frying can reduce its flesh to slop, and roasting seems to give it a bitter flavour. But before losing hope, why not try one of these recipes that really bring the best out of this undervalued ingredient?
- Aubergine Parmigiana
This is arguably one of the best recipes using aubergines that exists- although you can slice the aubergines and fry them a little, I’ve found that just halving them will allow them to turn soft without overstepping into sogginess.
- 2 medium/large aubergines
- 1 red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- A little sugar
- A small bunch of basil (or 1 tsp. of dried basil)
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. of tomato puree
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- A handful of grated parmesan (or cheddar would also be fine)
- Cut the tops off the aubergines and halve them. Place them on a tray, drizzle over a little oil, season and then place under the grill. Cook until they have browned on top, then turn them over and cook until the skin blisters and the flesh is fairly soft throughout.
- In a pan, roughly chop and gently fry the red onion in oil until it has softened. Chop and add the garlic, fry for a couple of minutes, then stir in the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, basil, bay leaf, and a little salt, pepper and sugar. Leave to simmer and reduce for about 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
- Preheat the oven to 180c fan/gas mark 4. In a baking dish, pour about 1/3 of the sauce. Place the aubergine halves on top so that they are quite tightly packed, then pour over the rest of the sauce, removing the bay leaf too. Cut the mozzarella into chunks or slices and spread these over the top, then sprinkle on the grated cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbling. Serve with salad.
2. Hot and Sour Aubergine with Rice
If you’re short on time, this recipe can be made quickly and with little effort- the aubergine soaks up all of the flavours of the sauce really well, creating a very convincing alternative to the more traditional sweet and sour recipe.
- 1 red onion
- 1 aubergine
- 2 tbsp. of red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. of honey
- 4 tsp. of soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. of chilli flakes/ 1 fresh red chilli
- Rice to serve
- Chop the onion into slices and cut the aubergine into chunks. Gently fry both in a little oil for about 10 minutes, until they have softened and browned lightly.
- Mix together the honey, vinegar, soy sauce and chilli/chilli flakes in a bowl then add to the pan, mix and cook for about 5 minutes with the vegetables until it has become a little thicker and darker.
- Serve with cooked rice.
3. Aubergine Crisps
If you don’t fancy a whole meal based around aubergine, then these simple, crisp slices are ideal to have as a snack or a side. Using a little oil is best with these as aubergines are thirsty and have a tendency to absorb whatever liquid you expose them to.
- 1 aubergine
- A little salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Cut the aubergine into fairly thin slices. Season with a little salt and pepper. Heat a thin film of oil in a frying pan.
- Sprinkle a little cornflour over the slices, then fry each until golden brown on each side. Season with a little more salt, then serve with dips, with a meal, or just as a snack.