A step-by-step guide to buying, preparing and cooking eggplant.
What is eggplant?
Eggplant (or aubergine) is a shiny purple pear-shaped fruit which is known as a vegetable as it is served in savoury dishes.
While there are many different varieties of eggplant including marble-sized Thai eggplant and long thin green-yellow ones, the most common variety available to us in New Zealand is the large dark-purple variety.
In Europe, eggplants are often stuffed with mince-type fillings, and found in dishes such as moussaka (a layered mince dish), and ratatouille (a tomato-based vegetable dish). In Asian cuisines eggplant is widely used, braised (fried lightly then stewed), or included in meat dishes.
How can I use it?
As well as being used to make classic Mediterranean recipes, eggplant can be used to make a variety of vegetarian dishes and served as a vegetable accompaniment. It has the added bonus of being quick to prepare as for most dishes it does not need to be peeled.
Eggplant has a mild flavour, which works well with onions, garlic, herbs and tomato and different spices. It does, however, need to be well cooked to avoid toughness which can make it unpleasant to eat.
Where do I find it?
You will find eggplant in the vegetable section at the supermarket as well as at the local greengrocer. Choose heavy, shiny eggplants with no blemishes or brown marks on the skin. Store eggplant in the refrigerator.
How do I cook it?
Eggplant is simple to prepare as it can be used without peeling.
- Simply cut off the stalk, chop into cubes and use in stir-fries, or slice and use in bakes and pasta dishes.
- Halve the eggplant and scoop out the centre then pack the eggplant ‘cup’ with a savoury filling of garlic tomato mince or couscous, adding the chopped flesh to your filling of choice.
- Barbecue or pan-fry slices of eggplant that have been sprayed with a little olive oil. Cook both sides for a few minutes until lightly golden. Serve as a vege accompaniment, on pizza or on bread as part of an open sandwich.
- Make a simple ratatouille dish by cooking diced eggplant with onion, garlic and capsicum cooked in a little oil. Add canned chopped tomatoes, a little tomato paste and chopped fresh basil. Season. Serve hot or cold with fish, chicken or meat.
- For a dip, take a whole eggplant, stab a few times with a knife and cook in a hot oven or on a hot barbecue grill until soft and collapsing. When cool scoop out flesh and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper and serve with pita bread.
Step-by-step to preparing eggplant
Step 1 Cut off the eggplant stalk then cut into thin slices.
Step 2 Either use sliced eggplant or cut slices into cubes and use for bakes and stir-fries. (Note: there is no need to salt sliced eggplant as they are now grown without the bitterness.)
Step 3 If using in a bake, place slices on baking paper and spray with a little olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes to soften and then use as needed.
This Baked eggplant layer can be served as a main dish on its own or with grilled fish or chicken.