Aubergines

The dandy of the veg patch – glossy skins and sweet, firm flesh – no bitter, washed-out specimens here. This versatile veg is good for roasting, ratatouille or smoky dips. For something really sumptuous, stuff, top with cheese and bake until golden and bubbling.

Storage & prep

Will keep for several days

Storage: A good aubergine should have a firm, smooth skin and feel heavy for its size. They’ll keep well in the fridge for up to a week before the drum-tight skin may show the first signs of wrinkling. They can become slightly bitter the longer you keep them.

Prep: Unless cooking whole, you’ll need to remove the green calyx at the top before slicing or dicing to your requirements. You can salt the flesh for a while before cooking; some people believe this reduces any bitterness but with the modern varieties it simply serves to draw out excess liquid. This can help it to absorb a little less oil when cooking but it is generally not vital.

Cooking tips

Many people have bad memories of undercooked, spongy aubergines. This is easily solved with generous applications of seasoning, oil and heat. Season well and fry or roast them with plenty of olive oil until the flesh goes golden brown and tender. They’ll work wonders stewed down with plenty of tomatoes and North African spice. They can even be roasted or grilled whole before stripping away the scorched skin to reveal the soft flesh inside.

Cooking ideas

Middle East: Roast bite-sized chunks of aubergine with plenty of oil and salt until tender and starting to colour. Stir them into 500ml of rich tomato sauce, seasoned with 2 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp of ground coriander, ½ tsp of hot smoked paprika and a pinch of cinnamon. Finish with some chopped parsley, mint and a swirl of yogurt, or, try this recipe for Harissa chicken with aubergines.

Grill: Cook, whole and uncut, under a medium grill or directly on the bars of a char-grill or BBQ until soft and collapsing. Peel away the skin. You will be left with a messy, smoky mass; perfect to be folded into a stew, lengthened into a sauce or blended for a dip. You could even dress the whole thing warm, with olive oil, feta, fresh herbs and toasted nuts and have a light lunch there and then.

Miso: Split an aubergine in half and cut a deep criss-cross pattern into the flesh. Oil well and roast at 200˚C/Gas 6 for 20 mins. Mix 1 tbsp of sweet white miso with 2 tbsp of mirin. Brush the mix on to the aubergine and grill until dark and sticky. Scatter with sesame seeds.

Aubergine recipe

Grilled aubergine, feta, olive & mint salad

A summer favourite of Riverford Cook Anna. Serve this salad at room temperature to enjoy the flavours at their best. Grilling the aubergines on a barbecue would be even better, heightening their smoky flavour.

Serves 8 - 30 min

Flavour Friends

Aubergine works well with:

Asian flavourings (Chilli, Ginger, Mirin, Miso, Soy sauce)
Cheese (Feta, Halloumi, Mozzarella, Parmesan)
Garlic
Lamb
Pomegranate
Sesame (Oil, Seeds, Tahini)
Summer herbs
Tomato
Walnuts

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