Do You Like Eggplant?
Eggplant, aubergine or brinjal- no matter what you call them, they have to be one of the most beautiful looking vegetables. Usually ovoid in shape, with their purple-black, shiny skin – I can’t go past picking one of these when I spy one. When you slice it in half the visuals are more subtle. The beige-coloured flesh of the eggplant has a strangely rubbery texture and small seeds that can be bitter.
When the vegetable is cooked it absorbs oils and juices like a sponge and takes on their flavours. Biologically it is a fruit but we think of it as a vegetable. It is a relative of tomatoes and potatoes, and is a member of the nightshade family. Originating in India, it is now cultivated all around the world. Eggplant is really nutritious with dietary fibre, vitamin B1, B6 and potassium. It also contains an important anthocyanin phytonutrient called nasunin, found in the skin, which is a powerful antioxidant.
What is a Sambal?
A sambal is a chili based sauce which is normally used as a condiment. Sambals are popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as in the Netherlands and in Suriname through Indonesian influence. Eric’s Dutch grandparents lived in Indonesia for many years and their Indonesian cooking influenced him a great deal as he grew up.
There is a debate about whether or not eggplant should be salted. It used to be that eggplant needed to be salted to remove the bitterness of the seeds and some say this should still be done for older and larger eggplants. But, the bitterness seems to have been largely removed from eggplants through breeding of newer cultivars. We never bother to salt because it dramatically reduces the amount of oil or juices that the vegetable will absorb. This can be a real disadvantage to a recipe. To salt, just rub salt into the cut surface and leave for about 20 minutes. Wash off the salt and then pat dry before sautéing.
There are so many different ways to cook eggplant. Its great grilled on the barbie – thick slices of eggplant with salt and pepper and lashings of olive oil. Place the pieces straight on the grill and cook until golden brown and the flesh has softened.
Or try it roasted – Slice in half lengthways, add salt, pepper and oil and put in a hot oven – it takes about 30 minutes to cook. The flesh will soften and the skin will shrivel a little. My favourite is to include it in my Green Thai Chicken Curry but try this recipe too – it’s a fabulous salad and one of our family’s favourites.
Now here is a great recipe, the combination of flavours is simply stunning. If you are an eggplant fan like we are, you will love this recipe. You can make it as mild or as hot as you want, and in addition can add green beans or any other vegetables. The combinations are endless. If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow eggplants. They love plenty of hot sun and a good drenching of water too. Why not try to grow them yourself?
- 1 eggplant
- 1 tsp each of turmeric, coriander and cumin
- 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds
- 1 hot chilli.
- 1/2 red onion
- 2 limes
- Lots of fresh coriander coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup of good quality unsweetened yoghurt
- Roast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan and then pound using a mortar and pestle.
- Add the turmeric powder.
- Roast an eggplant using the method described above.
- When the eggplant is roasted and cool enough to handle, remove the skin and mash the flesh finely.
- Add the spices, the finely chopped chilli and red onion, lime juice, coriander and yoghurt. Delicious with any meal.