If I were a vegetable I would be an Aubergine! There is nothing I don’t love about Aubergines… the shiny purple skin and the versatility to take on so many flavours, and either be a satisfying main course, or the perfect accompaniment. I know there are people out there who don’t share my love, but as with politics, I don’t let their views spoil our friendship!
Aubergines are one of those vegetables which transcend cultures and flavours – from Hot & spicy sichuan style or a South Indian curry, to Baba Ghanoush and Ratatouille and everything in between. It absorbs flavours like no other vegetable and in many cases, is just as good eaten hot as in cold.
My mother shared my Aubergine love, and one of our favourite ‘kampong style’ meals was aubergine samba with rice and greens… very simple but a hot spicy taste sensation. When we first lived in the UK, it was another hard to find ingredient, and all recipes would say to salt and drain off any bitter dishes. My mother and I have never done the – but we do often marinate it in salt/turmeric or whichever relevant flavour works with the dish.
Needless to say, I cook with aubergines a lot. One of the most common reasons for people not liking aubergines is that they haven’t been cooked properly, They need to yield to the touch and become soft and unctuous. Undercooked aubergine in a curry, ratatouille, vegetable kebab etc is just horrible. Cooked properly, they are divine. My children first fell in love with Aubergine when my mother cooked them one of my favourites – Aubergine fritters. Toss the aubergines in turmeric and salt for 20 minutes and then combined with light rice flour batter (water & rice flour) and deep fry in hot oil. Crispy crunchy on the outside and a meltingly soft middle!
They do absorb a lot of oil so I try not to fry them. If I’m making a ratatouille or a pasta dish with aubergines, I will chop them up and roast them in the oven with olive oil and salt. This ensures that they are cooked properly before going into the pasta.
Last night was warm and balmy again so we barbecued again. I had marinated some lamb steaks with fresh rosemary, garlic, olive oil, chopped up lemon and salt for a few hours. Aubergine and Lamb is a marriage made in heaven…. so I decided to make a warm aubergine salad, alongside roasted Romano peppers & tomatoes. I also baked a foccacia with the leftover dough from our flatbreads last week.
Grilled Aubergines with Mint & Chilli.
This is so easy but a fabulous accompaniment to grilled lamb, or even on its own as a dish with grilled Halloumi.
2 Aubergines – sliced thickly
handful of fresh mint
1 red chilli
6 Tbs Olive Oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
Put the sliced aubergine into a bowl with 4 Tbs olive oil and salt. BBQ on high heat until slightly charred on the outside and the flesh is not white, but almost translucent. Put in a dish and sprinkle with the remaining oil. Then add the chopped mint andchili and the lemon juice. Again, salt to taste.
As an alternative you can also add a drizzle of tahini, or sprinkle with sumac or Zatar.
For those non-Aubergine lovers… please try this, or maybe another Aubergine recipe!