I have been having such a wonderful time creating dishes for my vegetarian customers that frequent my restaurant Yumcious Café, at the Cape Quarter in Green Point, Cape Town. I love the meatiness of the aubergine. There are so many varieties to choose from. I have fallen in love with the long dark deep plum coloured Chinese aubergine. It has the texture of silk and is so wonderfully creamy. It’s not always available so when I get them, I really celebrate them.
I love smoking my aubergines over the open flame of my gas ring. It cooks really fast and becomes infused with a delicious smokiness. Once they are removed from the heat I place them into a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap till they cool and then I skin them and remove any tough seeds.
Then I give them a rough chop and stir through chopped cucumber and tomatoes, mint, coriander and parsley and dress with a little lemon infused garlicky yoghurt.
Ratatouille has been a hit as well, as has beefy mince stuffed aubergine halves topped with a parmesan cheesy sauce.
Moussaka, made with grilled slices of aubergine and a lovely tomato and lentil stew and layered with cheese sauce, is never not a hit. Whichever way you prepare this remarkable, smooth, glossy skinned veggie, you always come up tops.
They come in many shapes, sizes and wonderful colours: purple, red, orange, yellow, white, green and deep blue.
An aubergine is very low in calories and fat, but wonderfully rich in soluble fibre and 100g contains only 24 calories. It is also is a great source of anti-oxidants.
Added great news is that they are also a low GI vegetable that contain good amounts of vitamin B1 ,B3,B5 and minerals like manganese, copper, iron and potassium.
The creamy coloured, almost spongy flesh sucks up the oil when fried, so it is a good idea to salt the sliced aubergine before frying.
This will release water from the aubergine and collapse the membranes and when this happens they do not soak up the oil in the pan, making them greasy and unpleasant to eat.
If you are a beginner here is a little advice when choosing aubergines: bear in mind when buying them that the older they are, the more bitter they are likely to be so choose medium sized young ones with a glossy smooth, unwrinkled skin with no blemishes – these usually have the best flavour.
Don’t be scared to touch them. If they are overripe and old they will not spring back when lightly squeezed. The perfect one will feel heavy for its size and be firm and when you cut it open it will have nice, undeveloped seeds.
Let’s cook them in the simplest way – peeled and fried, served with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
This is a great side dish to serve with lamb chops.
2 medium sized aubergines
Oil for frying
Fresh lemon wedges or tzatziki
Peel the aubergines and slice each one into four lengthways. Salt them lightly and let them drain in a strainer for 15 minutes, rinse under cold water and pat dry.
Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the slices of aubergine in batches, drain on a paper towel, divide and arrange onto individual plates, sprinkle over chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges and or a good dollop of tzatziki.
© Jenny Morris 2016 all rights reserved