Native to India, the Aubergine is not the easiest vegetable to grow in the UK. It needs sun, and lots of it. As a result, here it is mostly grown under glass. At this time of year we rely on Italy for our supplies. A member of the Solanum family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes, it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes in colours of white, violette, darkest purple/black and mottled plum, green and yellow.
Slicing into an aubergine reveals a white slightly spongy textured flesh that offers no temptation to eat raw. Its blandness is transformed by olive oil, lots, and fierce heat which brings a smokiness to its then silky texture. Tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices are the way to go.
It’s the start of Summer and that means barbecues will be coming out up and down the country. Here are a few recipe ideas for barbecuing, grilling or roasting the large Violette Sicilian Aubergines we have for you this week.
Sicilian Warm Vegetable Salad
Brush whole or halved aubergines, whole peppers and unpeeled flat pink onions with olive oil and place over the barbecue (or grill or roast) until the skins are well charred and the flesh soft. Peel the skins from all the vegetables, chop the flesh roughly and season with salt and pepper. Toss in an olive oil and lemon/vinegar dressing. Serve warm with crusty bread or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.
Slice aubergines fairly thickly, salt and leave for 30 minutes then dry on kitchen paper. Dip in flour and fry in hot olive oil (190C is considered safe for olive oil). Tasty on their own but particularly good served with a sauce like mayonnaise, maybe flavoured with chopped herbs, or the Greek garlic, bread and almond sauce Skordalia.
Slice aubergines fairly thickly, salt and leave for 30 minutes then dry on kitchen paper. Dip in a light fritter batter- 100g plain flour, pinch salt, 1 egg, 350ml water or milk – shallow or deep fry until golden and serve with lemon wedges.
Grilled Aubergine with a Green Sauce
Slice the aubergine lengthwise thickly, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Barbecue or cook on a griddle until soft and browned on both sides. Chop a handful each of herbs - parsley, mint and basil are good - and mix with a crushed clove of garlic. Add about 60ml of olive oil slowly while stirring then a squeeze of lemon. Spoon the sauce over the cooked aubergine. Good with bread or alongside cold meats.
Aubergines, Tomato and Parmesan cheese bake
Slice the aubergine thickly, brush with oil and grill on both sides until soft and browned (or cook on a baking tray in the oven). Heat a little olive oil, add a chopped clove of garlic and cook just to soften. Add chopped tomatoes and a cook for 15 minutes. Oil a baking dish, add the cooked aubergine slices, then the tomato sauce. Top with parmesan and bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes.
Nigel Slater has a recipe in which he pairs aubergine successfully with cream. You can find Baked Aubergine with thyme and cream in his book Tender Volume I.
Then there’s Honey & Co’s Aubergine Sabich which is basically Pitta bread stuffed with roasted slices of aubergine, a spoonful of tahini and a fried egg – a dish I could eat at any time of day. You’ll find the recipe for that on page 230 of Honey & Co Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich.
Time to roll out that Barbecue.