Get Fresh & Fruity Aubergine

Get Fresh & Fruity Aubergine

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Aubergine

Pronounce it: oh-ber-geen

Although it's technically a fruit (a berry, to be exact), the aubergine is used as a vegetable. It's native to South-East Asia, but is grown all over the world, and there are many different varieties, including the bulbous, glossy, deep purple zepplin-like types common to Mediterrean cuisine; the small, tubular Asian types; the small, plump and ivory examples (hence 'eggplant', its name in the United States and Australia); or the scarcely-bigger-than-a-pea varieties grown in Thailand. All varieties share the same bland, mildly smokey flavour and flesh that's spongey when raw but soft when cooked.

Find out about the health benefits of aubergines with our guide.

Availability

All year round, but at its best from late May through to mid October.

Choose the best

Firm, smooth, glossy examples, with bright green stalks. A fresh aubergine should feel fairly heavy.

Prepare it

To avoid discolouration, cut just before cooking. In the past, recipes called for aubergines to be sliced and salted before cooking to reduce their bitterness. As modern varieties are much less bitter that's no longer necessary, unless you're planning to fry them; aubergines soak up oil like a sponge and salting helps reduce that.

Aubergine recipes

Everyone knows that aubergines are delicious on the barbecue or in a curry or ratatouille. Branch out and try our unusual recipes of a veggie main of roasted with salsa, to heavenly fried aubergine chips.

Buyer's guide

Although the plump, pear-shaped variety, with its near-black shiny-skinned exterior, is probably the most familiar in Britain,they come in a wide variety of shapes, colours and sizes. Italian cooks enjoy varieties with long fruit and striking lavender and cream streaks. Asian cultivars vary widely: some, such as the bitter-flavoured pea aubergine, are the size of a grape; the seed-filled, rounded Thai aubergine has green stripes and is used in curries; the beautifully long and slender pale-purple Japanese and Chinese varieties are ideal for stir-frying. It can also be ivory-coloured and ovoid, which almost certainly led people in some countries to name it the eggplant

They can be bought all year round but they are at their best, not to mention cheapest, from July to September. Look for unblemished, firm, lustrous skin with a bright green calyx, or stem. Home-grown are available from April to October in the UK.

Storage

They store well in the fridge or a cool larder for about four to six days.

Preparation

In the past, many recipes recommended salting to reduce their bitter flavour. This isn't really necessary now, although salting does make them absorb less oil when they're fried. To prepare, wash the skin and trim off the stalk. Slice or cut the flesh into chunks just before cooking as it discolours quickly.

This humble plant has played a major part in many popular regional cuisines throughout the world - in French ratatouille, say, or roasted and whipped into baba ganoush in traditional Levantine style. The slightly bland flavour of the makes it the perfect blank slate to which rich and aromatic spices and herbs can be added: slick with miso and grill, or stew gently with stock, chilli bean paste and Shaoxing wine for a classic Chinese dish with minced pork. In India, Iran and Afghanistan, A Aubergine are made into hot, spicy pickles to whet the appetite.


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