This attractive-looking dark, glossy purple vegetable is often thought to be native to the Mediterranean but in fact it was originally from Asia. Also known as the eggplant, aubergines have a ‘meaty’ texture and a very subtle, but delicious earthy flavour. Aubergines have the ability to absorb other flavours and are often cooked with a selection of aromatic spices and onions. They are a particularly popular ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookery. When buying, look for plump, heavy aubergines with a shiny, unblemished skin.
How to Use
Aubergines are always eaten cooked. They can be diced or sliced and included in a variety of hearty dishes such moussaka, ratatouille, roasted vegetables, curries and dips. Aubergines can also be stuffed or sliced and grilled or served as fritters. Flavours that combine particularly well with aubergines include garlic, tomatoes, peppers, cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
How to Prepare
Wash and top and tail, then slice, dice or split horizontally if stuffing. Salting aubergines isn't essential (in the past it was necessary to remove any bitter juices, but modern varieties are not usually bitter) but it can prevent them absorbing too much oil in recipes where they are fried. If you choose to salt them, place the prepared aubergine in a colander, sprinkle salt evenly over the cut surfaces and leave for about 30 minutes. Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen towel before cooking.
How to Cook
Aubergines can be fried or baked. To fry aubergine slices, coat them in flour, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add the slices, cook stirring often until browned and tender. To bake halved aubergines, preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5, top with a tomato sauce or slices of tomato and mozzarella cheese and bake for 40-45 minutes or until tender.
How to Store
Keep refrigerated after purchase.