Often referred to as ‘eggplant’, Aubergine is commonly used as a vegetable, but it’s actually as a fruit, related to tomatoes and potatoes.
In fact, the fruit itself is botanically classified as a berry.
And, believe it or not, the aubergine plant is a close relative of the tobacco plant.
Originating in South East Asia, the aubergine is also widely used in Italian, Mediterranean, French and Middle Eastern cuisines.
There are many varieties of aubergine – some are small pea shaped and some are large pumpkin-like in shape and size.
Colours vary from green, cream, dark purple to yellow.
Aubergines can be served hot or cold, braised, baked, battered and deep-fried, grilled, pan-fried, barbecued, stuffed, blended and pureed.
The most famous dishes made from aubergine are ratatouille (not the movie), moussaka, baba ghanoush and imam bayildi.
I’m a big fan of aubergine, especially grilled slices.
However they can be a little bitter in their original form. That’s because they contain the highest level of nicotine of any vegetable, but not enough to be additive.
You would have to eat around 10kg of raw eggplant to consume the equivalent amount of nicotine found in one cigarette.
None-the-less if an eggplant is particularly bitter it may need to be degorged, which means removing its moisture and the bitterness with it, as in the recipe below:
- Cut an eggplant into round slices (approximately 1cm thick).
- Place slices into a colander and sprinkle all the slices liberally with slat.
- Weigh the whole lot down with a heavy plate to help squeeze out the water.
- Leave them for at least half an hour and then rinse them off under cold running water.
- Pat each slice dry with paper towel.
- These slices can now be grilled on a barbecue plate to golden brown and then drizzled with high quality olive oil.
- Serve with antipasto of sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese etc.