Whenever I walk past the fresh produce aisles in the grocery store, I see people eyeing up the Eggplants suspiciously but very few venture out to buy them. Most people are intrigued by them – the colours, the shapes and the textures but there seems to be a little reluctance in trying them out. I have always wondered why most of the Eggplants rot away instead of being picked up by punters, and it wasn’t until I recently ran a What’s for Dinner class that I found out why!
The simple answer was, most people don’t know what to do with them when they take them home. How does one roast one? Do you peel them? How do you wash them? What about the seeds? Can be bake them? Do they have to be stir fried? Can we eat them like a fruit? and so on… I made a Tomato, Onion and Eggplant quick stir fry and was surprised that only 2 people in the whole class had actually tasted Eggplant before. After the initial reluctance and once they were assured that others had survived after tasting the Eggplant, the general consensus was the surprise at how easy it was too cook and how delicious it could be when cooked right!
This post is dedicated to those non Eggplant / Aubergine believers in the hope that you will try them at least once.
Eggplants and Aubergines are the same thing! – I was brought up in England where we use the French translation of the word Aubergine and now living in Canada, we refer to to these delicious beasts as Eggplants. They don’t have be an egg shaped and they definitely don’t have the same colour, flavour or texture. One day, I will do some research as to why they are called Eggplants but will not digress today.
First and foremost, rinse them in salted water. This not only cleans the surface but also gets rid of any chemical sprays and fertilisers that may have been used on them. If you are going to wait to find Organic versions of these, you would be waiting for a long time unless you grow them in your own back yard. Living in Calgary, not much grows in the weather out here so I am happy when I can find fresh Aubergines in the grocery stores.
One option is to cut them from the bottom as shown in the picture, crossways without going through the whole Eggplant. I like to leave the stem at the top which holds the vegetable together.
This is what it looks like inside –
The Thai Eggplant has a mix of white and dark coloured seeds, and I find the texture of these a little harder than the purple versions we normally find. When the vegetable is nice and fresh, they will snap off into pieces very easily.
Another alternative is to cut them into 4 quarters lengthways, as shown below. I prefer these quarters for this type of Eggplant, for no other reason but for the texture being a little coarser than the normal one. These seeds remind me of Sesame seeds but they didn’t taste like Sesame (I had to try!). I wouldn’t recommend eating this vegetable raw.
I filled a disposable plastic cup with the spices I wanted to use. I used the disposable cup for no other reason than the fact that it was within arms length when I was about to pick up a glass. Add all the dry spices into the glass including salt, black pepper and anything else that you wish to use. If I was using any dried herbs, I would have added these into this mix as well.
If you are planning on roasting the whole Eggplant as one piece, then simply dip the cut side down into the glass. Hold the top of the glass carefully, using the palm of your hand as a lid and give it a little shake to help the spices rise up in the Eggplant.
If you are using the quarter slices for your recipe, then add 3-4 pieces in the glass at a time and once again, using the palm of your hand as a lid on the glass, give them a shake to allow the spices to cover the Eggplant evenly all over.
The spiced up whole piece should look something like this. Now, drizzle a teaspoon of oil into each eggplant piece and lay it flat on a baking sheet ready to roast. A teaspoon of oil in each eggplant may sound like a lot, but these little green things are real ‘oil suckers’ they drink oil like crazy. I tried frying them once and was shocked when I had to refill the oil halfway through as they drank the oil before crisping up and them spitting it all out. The baked version is much healthier, but even this needs a bit of oil.
I sprayed some oil using a pump spray filled with Grapeseed oil (High smoking point, no fragrance or smell and very healthy!) onto the spiced pieces of Eggplant and spread them on a large baking sheet or tray that I lined with parchment paper.
Baked these at 375F for 20 minutes to get these scrunched up pieces that don’t look very appetising but they are packed with flavour and goodness!
Drop these little scrunched up roasted Eggplant things into any soup, broth, curry, casserole to achieve amazing results. I was adding them to a Mung Bean Lentil Curry, hence the Indian spice mix when I roasted them. You could use any amount of different flavour variations. Try an Italian seasoning mix and add them to Chicken Cacciatore with roasted Eggplants!
ROASTED THAI EGGPLANT WITH MUNG BEAN LENTIL CURRY
10 Thai Eggplants / Aubergines
Spice mix for roasting Eggplants-
Salt to taste
Chicken Masala mix (Ready mix available at most supermarkets)
1 cup dried Green Mung Bean Lentils
1 tbsp Turmeric powder
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 inch piece ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp garam masala
2 fresh Thai Green chillies, minced
1/2 cup Crushed tomatoes (or Plum tomatoes, blitzed with a hand blender)
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp oil
Roast the Eggplants as described above.
Boil the Mung Bean lentils in 4 cups of water and the Turmeric powder. Don’t add salt when you are boiling the lentils. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes whilst the Eggplants are roasting.
Take a small pan, heat the oil and add the onions. Saute until the onions have softened and add the ginger and the green chillies. Continue cooking until the onions turn golden brown before adding the garlic. As the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add the crushed tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and stir well. Add the remaining seasonings and add to the boiled Mung beans as they are simmering.
Add the roasted Eggplants to the mung beans too and cover the pot. Allow all the ingredients to get acquainted in the pot before serving. These are delicious with some rice and equally fantastic with some freshly made flat bread and a crunchy salad.