There were eggplants galore at Hamilton Farmers’ Market this morning. David from Suncakes Gardens was selling excellent spray-free aubergines grown in Whatawhata, and there were eggplants on a couple of other stalls as well.
Eggplant is the name most often used for this beautiful purple vegetable/ fruit in New Zealand, Australia and North America.
The far more elegant "aubergine" is more common in the UK and France. The Italian word for eggplant, melanzane, is even more harmonious.
Eggplants thrive in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, India and South-East Asia. There are great eggplant recipes from cultures in those regions.
I am very partial to eggplant pickles. If there are more aubergines at the market next week, I’ll make some Indian brinjal chutney and maybe also some Korean eggplant kimchee.
I’ve tried to grow eggplant several times, with no luck. I’ve concluded that my garden doesn’t get enough hours of direct sunlight. Other local gardeners are growing eggplant successfully - maybe I’m doing something else wrong.
Here are a couple of my favourite eggplant recipes.
Ivy’s aubergine fritters
This is a seriously easy, quick vegetarian main dish. The batter has no eggs or milk. For a gluten-free version, I am planning to try it with chick-pea flour. (You can find it at Bin Inn.)
I found it in Dinner at Home, by Lois Daish, who used to write for The Listener. She says it’s originally from northern India.
The batter contains turmeric, and the fritters turn a beautiful rusty red when cooked. (I don’t understand the chemistry behind this, because normally turmeric turns food yellow.)
1 cup white flour, or half white and half wholemeal
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric - Trade Aid are now selling Fair Trade turmeric
1 large aubergine, or a couple of smaller ones
oil for frying
Place flour, baking soda, salt and turmeric in a bowl. Whisk in enough water to make a batter the consistency of lightly beaten cream. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Wash and dry the aubergine, then cut into rings the thickness of a $1 coin, i.e. not too thin but not too thick either. Heat enough oil in a frying pan to cover the bottom generously. Dip the aubergine rings in the batter and fry for 2 minutes on each side. If the eggplant hasn’t become soft inside the batter, keep cooking for a few more minutes.
This is enough for 2 or 3 people, depending on the size of the eggplant.
Goes well with rice, salad and chutney or yoghurt for a sauce.
Caponata - Italian eggplant salad
Make ahead of time – it tastes even better the next day.
You need a couple of big eggplants.
Cut into 1cm cubes (don’t bother about peeling).
Either: toss the cubes in 4 Tbsp olive oil and bake in a medium oven until they are soft but not mushy; or cook in a heavy frying pan or a wok on a medium heat. Three or four tablespoons of olive oil should be enough. If using a frying pan, cook the eggplant in two or three batches.
When cooked, place in a large bowl and add dressing and a few torn up basil leaves.
Dressing: Mix to taste: extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, very finely minced, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, ¼ tsp mustard. Suggested ratio: 4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.
Optional additions at serving time: a few capers; thinly sliced red capsicum, either raw or chargrilled; cubed feta