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Eggplant

In Adelaide, eggplants grow during the hot summer months so they are at their harvest peak from mid summer through to early autumn.  We call them eggplant because of their shape but you'll see them referred to as aubergine in French and melanzana (meaning crazy apple) in Italian.

For centuries, melanzana had a bad reputation and it was even thought to cause madness. Its name was interpreted to mean mela insana, meaning both insane and not healthy. Such bad reputation comes from the fact that melanzana belongs to the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, which also includes tomatoes, capsicums and potatoes. It does not cause madness, but it contains the alkaloid solanin, and should not be eaten raw. Even undercooked, eggplant does not taste good. When it is thoroughly cooked, however, it is a pleasure to eat.

Nutritional benefits

Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, and copper. It is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.

Preparing Eggplant

There's no need to salt eggplants any more as the bitterness has been bred out of them. Salting does draw out juices which slightly reduces the amount of oil they absorb when fried.  We love olive oil so we dont bother salting, but you may prefer less oil.
Try charring eggplants over a barbecue, flame or under a griller if you want to reduce the oil and impart a deliciously smoky flavour to your recipe
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Separating the soft flesh from the skin in a baked eggplant.

Fried Eggplant with miso sauce

A Japanese favourite
Ingredients:
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 4 tbsp sake
  • 3 tbsp mirin
  • 4 tbsp castor sugar
  • 2 tbsp shoyu
  • 5 tbsp red miso
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp julienne of coriander
Method:
  1. Cut the eggplants into three-centimetre dice. Crush the chillies in a mortar and pestle. Mix the sake, mirin, sugar and shoyu in a cup. In a separate bowl, mix the red miso with four tablespoons of water to soften the paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chilli. When the oil is smoking, add the eggplant, fry for about eight to 10 minutes until tender.
  3. Lower the heat and add the sake mix, stir for two to three minutes, add the miso and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes. Spoon on to a plate and sprinkle with coriander.


Baba Ganoush

This famous Middle Eastern dip is simple, yet awesome.  No wonder its a classic!
Ingredients:
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 900 grams)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) tahini
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
Method:
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place eggplants onto the baking sheet and prick in several places using a fork. This helps steam escape while the eggplants roast.
  2. Grill eggplants 2 minutes on all sides underneath a medium heat. The skin will darken a little and begin to smell smoky, adding lots of flavour to the dip.
  3. Remove from griller and place eggplants and tray in an oven preheated to 190C.  Roast eggplants 25 to 30 minutes, or until very soft. Cool 10 to 15 minutes until easily handled.
  4. Meanwhile, combine tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and the salt in a medium bowl. Set aside so the flavours meld.
  5. Split the eggplants, drain excess liquid, scrape out the flesh and add to the tahini mixture. (Discard excess liquid and skins).
  6. Mash eggplant into tahini mixture with a fork until almost smooth but retaining some texture. Cool to room temperature then stir in parsley and drizzle the top with olive oil.

Baingan Bharta

(a traditional Indian eggplant dip)
Ingredients:
  • 1 large, fat eggplant
  • 2 medium size tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red capsicum, cut in small pieces
  • 1 green chili
  • 1/4 inch piece of ginger
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2  teaspoon red chilli
  • 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoon chopped coriander to garnish
Method:
  1. Place the eggplant on a baking tray and prick in a few places (to release steam as it cooks).  Bake for about 45 minutes at 190C, turning the sides every fifteen minutes. Alternatively, cook the whole eggplant in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes until it is tender. 
  2. Let it cool and peel off the skin then chop the eggplant in small pieces and keep aside.
  3. Blend the tomatoes, ginger and green chilli.
  4. Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium high and stir fry the capsicum for about a minute. Remove capsicum from pan and keep aside.
  5. Use the same saucepan with remaining oil heat the oil little more. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if it cracks right away it is ready. Add asafoetida and cumin seed.
  6. After cumin seeds crack, add tomato puree, coriander powder, turmeric, red chilli, and salt and let it cook for a few minutes until tomato puree has started leaving the oil.
  7. Add eggplant let it cook on medium heat keep stirring the eggplant and mashing the eggplant as it cooks.
  8. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  9. Add capsicum, fresh coriander, and garam masala to the eggplant and mix it gently.
  10. Bharta is ready serve hot with roti, parathas or naan bread.  Enjoy!
 

Involtini

These delicious rolled morsels combine eggplant and zucchini with pumpkin, asparagus and sun dried tomatoes.  A great starter for a vegetarian lunch or dinner.
Ingredients (makes 12):
  • 6 small to medium zucchini, cut into long lengths – approximately 3mm thick
  • 4-5 small to medium in size, eggplant (not too fat), cut into long lengths – approximately 3mm thick
  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, cut in half, length-ways
  • 24 spears asparagus (or green beans) lightly blanched
  • 1/4 medium pumpkin, cut into 2 inch strip (12 pieces), roasted
  • olive oil for roasting & char-grilling
  • good salt
  • rosemary, remove the 'leaf' for roasting with and keep the twig as a tooth pick
  • Macadamia Pesto Oil (see below)
Method:
  1. Place the pumpkin in the oven at 190-200C, oil, salt and scatter with rosemary sprigs. Bake until golden, roughly 15-20 minutes.
  2. Brush the zucchini and eggplant on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Heat char grillpan until hot, then place zucchini strips across the grill all in the same direction (with the char grill stripes going horizontally across zucchini). Allow the zucchini to cook half way and to form the black char stripes. You don't want the zucchini to be too cooked as it falls apart when you roll it up but you don't want it raw either. You need it to be soft and yet succulent and malleable.  Lift and peek to ensure stripes are a good strong colour, then turn. Gently press down and leave to form strips on the other side. Remove once cooked.
  3. Do the same with the eggplant. You definitely want to eggplant to be cooked as there is nothing worse than raw, uncooked eggplant.
  4. Lightly blanch the asparagus in water until it goes bright green and still has a crunch in it but also a little softness. Al dente!
  5. Take one of the zucchini strips and line it with the eggplant, then the pumpkin and finally the asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Roll it up tightly but also gently. Trim the asparagus to poke out of the centre of the involtini, not too tall. Spear gently with a sprig of rosemary twig. Saves on toothpicks, often rainforest or sustainably sourced. No tree died in the making of this!
  6. Place on a platter or on individual entree plate and chill. Serve with Macadamia Pesto Oil.
 
Macadamia Pesto Oil:
  • 1 fat healthy bunch Basil (or Parsley and Mint)
  • 1/2 cup Macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp good salt
Blend olive oil, herbs and salt in a blender until smooth. Then add the macadamia nuts (or any other nut) and blend to desired consistency. Sometimes it's nice to have a little texture and slight chunkier nut other times it's nice to have a smooth oil texture. Serve on the side.
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