In England we tend not to think of Aubergine so much when picking dishes to cook, yet this is one incredibly versatile vegetable. So versatile in fact it borders on arrogance. Every country has their own range of treatments for this wonderful berry. Botanically the aubergine is a berry, and if you were ever wondering about the distinctive smoky flavour it exudes, bear in mind it is closely related to the tobacco plant and actually contains traces of nicotine. “Holy smoke, Batters old boy that’s eggplantastic!”
Italians bake it with a tomato and herb sauce topped with bechamel and parmesan namely melanzane alla parmigiana, Greeks roast it with minced lamb and potato to make moussaka, the middle Eastern treatment is to smoke it in its own skin, pulp the flesh and mix with tahini, lemon and olive oil to make baba ghanoush, delicious served cold on fresh baked bread. In its native India naturally they spice it up and slow cook with onions and tomatoes to make Baigan Tamatar, and a dish from the Caucasus involves filling with walnut paste and frying. This is just a small selection of the dishes out there.
The following dishes I invented last week on holiday as a bit of an experiment and they turned out to be quite delicious. They are basically hybridisations of various dishes, and are both easy to prepare and packed with flavour.
Chilled meditteranean aubergine salad.
2 small or 1 large aubergine, diced
Large clove garlic / teaspoon of smoked garlic puree
1 tsp creamed horseradish
Tin of chopped plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried flake chilli
tsp worcestershire sauce
Tsp mixed herbs
Tsp muscavado sugar
Cook the onions and garlic on a low heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the aubergines and continue to stir for another five minutes. Add horseradish, chilli and sugar, stir for 30 seconds then add the chopped tomatoes, stir through and ad the remaining ingredients, excluding the basil. Bring this to the boil then put on a low heat and simmer for up to 20 minutes, adding boiled water to maintain the moisture. By the end you want the ingredients to have broken down to a coarse pulpy puree consistency. Tear fresh basil in to the dish, add a tbsp of olive oil and a small squeeze of lemon juice then chill in the freezer for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring intermittently to prevent ice crystals from forming. Serve with a crisp lettuce salad, olives and fresh bread.
Ham and aubergine eggs florentine.
Fresh spinach leaves approx 250 g
Four large free range eggs
Grated cheddar cheese / parmesan
4 slices of ham
8 tbsps of aubergine mixture as prepared above.
200g passata – smooth creamed tomatoes.
Steam the spinach until wilted, then drain in a colander over a sink until excess water is removed, and chop coarsely. Wrap 2 tbsps of the aubergine mixture in each slice of ham and place in a greased baking dish. Cover with the spinach. Pour the passata over the top and spread evenly. Make four shallow indentations using the back of a spoon and crack an egg in to each recess. Grate the cheddar or parmesan on top and bake at 180 for fifteen minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.