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Aubergine

Aubergines, along with tomatoes, peppers and potatoes belong to the solanaceae family. Although they have been popular in Mediterranean and Middle East countries for centuries, where there are said to be over 100 ways of cooking them, they have only recently become known in Britain.

Salting used to be recommended to reduce bitterness but today's varieties are rarely bitter. However, salting does draw out moisture and reduce the amount of oil soaked up during cooking. To salt, place the slices (approx 1cm thick) or segments in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for an hour. Gently squeeze out the moisture, rinse well and pat dry before using. Aubergines will keep well in the salad drawer of the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but are best used when fresh.

'Green Cuisine' gives recipes for Aubergine Souffle, Aubergine & Tomato Tart and Aubergine & Tomato Pasta Sauce. Aubergine slices can be fried in olive oil, either as they are, or coated in batter. They are served as a starter in some Mediterranean countries. For Moussaka and other dishes where aubergines are layered with other vegetables, first fry the slices lightly in oil to give them a tasty crust, whilst the inside remains soft.

Aubergine Dip

  • 1 large aubergine, peeled and chopped
  • salt
  • 2 tblsp oil
  • One-quarter cup tahini
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • garlic

Place aubergine on wire rack, sprinkle with salt. Stand for 20 mins. Rinse under cold water and drain on absorbent paper.

Heat oil in medium saucepan, add aubergine and garlic, stir over low heat for about 10 mins (or in microwave on High for about 6 mins) until tender.

Blend or process aubergine mixture, tahini and juice until smooth. Serve sprinkled with paprika. May be used as a dip with crisp vegetable sticks or pitta bread, etc.

Stuffed Aubergines

Cut a large one in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh, leaving a half-inch 'shell' and chop the flesh roughly. Sauté some onion, then add the chopped aubergine and cook until the onion is transparent. Then add some crushed garlic, chopped mushrooms, pieces of tofu*/quorn (if desired) and pine nuts and cook for approx. 40 mins. Serves 2 people. The stuffing mix can be improvised upon, so use your imagination!

* If buying tofu try to obtain organic, otherwise ensure than it's not made from GM soya.

Aubergine au Gratin

  • 1 Aubergine
  • Thyme (fresh if possible)
  • Half a cucumber
  • 1 - 2 tbspns oil
  • 4oz mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 heaped tbspns soft breadcrumbs
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt & pepper

Slice onion, dice cucumber, mushrooms and aubergine. Fry onion lightly, add aubergine. Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms, cucumber, thyme and seasoning. Put the mixture in an oiled ovenproof dishes and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, seasoned and mixed with the crushed garlic. Arrange tomato slices on top, sprinkle with more oil and bake for 45 to 50 mins at gas mark 6 (400F, 200C).

Ratatouille

The perfect way to use and blend those Mediterranean summer vegetables, aubergines, peppers courgettes and tomatoes, onions and garlic. Instead of making it in a big pan on the hob, try cooking it in a baking dish in the oven (an Aga is ideal, of course). Roughly chop up the tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes and peppers, but omit onions. You needn't even skin the tomatoes, unless you prefer to. Mix the chopped vegetables up and place in an ovenproof dish. Dribble a generous amount of good quality olive oil over the lot, add chopped garlic cloves, and bake until the vegetables are soft. It is not as "sloppy" as it can be using the hob top method, when cooked this way.

Aubergine Salad (Serves 4)

This dish has a distinctive Mediterranean flavour about it. Preparation time 15 mins plus 1 hour to stand and 5 hours to cool and refrigerate. Cooking time: 30 mins. Oven: Preheat to 200C (400F, gas mark 6).

  • About 1lb 4 oz (550g) of aubergines
  • 1 level tbspn chopped fresh parsley
  • Half a level tspn salt (optional)
  • 1 level tbspn chopped fresh coriander
  • 8 oz (225g) ripe tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and diced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 6 tbspn water
  • 2 tbspn virgin olive oil
  • Sprigs of fresh coriander to garnish

Slice the aubergines thinly from the tip towards the stalk leaving the slices joined at the stalk end. Leave the stalk in place but trim it of any prickly bristles. Alternatively, with larger aubergines, slice them into 'tongues'.

If desired, put the aubergines into a wide dish, sprinkle with the salt and leave for 1 hour for the bitter juice to be drawn out. This is not always necessary with fresh, ripe, aubergines.

Meanwhile, mix the tomatoes with the garlic, parsley and coriander.

Rinse the aubergines well with cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper (if previously salted). Arrange them together in an ovenproof dish and spread a little of the tomato mixture between the slices. Pour in the water and season with pepper. Trickle the oil over the aubergines, cover and cook in the oven for 30 mins or until soft, basting occasionally.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool and refrigerate for 4 hours while the flavour develops. Serve garnished with the coriander.


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