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Eggplant Delights

Published: 
Saturday, April 26, 2014

Better known to Trinidadians as melongene, taken from its Latin name of salonum melongena. The English call it eggplant, the French, aubergine and the East Indians, Baigan.     
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is related to the tomato and potato. Though commonly thought of as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit, more specifically a berry, (notice the number of small seeds). Although here in T&T there is one variety of eggplant available to us, which is the elongated, large dark purple variety, there are actually at least four other varieties of eggplant. The Japanese or oriental variety which is slender, smaller and elongated. These have fewer seeds and are very tender and delicious. 

 

Then there is the Italian variety, which is a smaller version to the common variety that we get here, it has a more delicate skin and flesh. The Sicilian eggplant is large and round with varying shades of purple as the skin. This variety has a very tender skin and is sweet and mild in flavour. And the White eggplant has a tougher skin with a smoother firmer flesh. Eggplant is a good source of fibre, although it is not high in any single vitamin or mineral, it is very filling and has a meaty texture making it ideal in vegetarian dishes. It is very low in calories, surprisingly a cup of raw eggplant contains less than 40 calories, however, be careful of your mode of preparation. Eggplant’s spongy texture allows it to soak up fat like a sponge! In one experiment a deep fried eggplant soaked up four times as much fat as French-fried potatoes did! When selecting eggplants look for a smooth-skinned eggplant that feels heavy for its size, has a glossy colour and flesh that bounces back when lightly pressed. Avoid eggplants with soft brown spots.

Eggplant becomes bitter with age and its skin toughens so it’s best to prepare eggplant within four days of buying it. It is among one of the most versatile of vegetables or fruits, and is a component of many popular ethnic dishes including Indian curries, Chinese stir-fries, Greek moisakos, French ratatouille, and Middle Eastern-stuffed eggplants. Our variety of eggplant tends to be a bit bitter, to remove this bitterness as well as reduce the fat absorption, you can salt your eggplant: slice the eggplant, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon per pound, place in a colander and cover with a plate, let stand for about 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse eggplant slices slightly and squeeze out excess moisture.

 

CHINESE EGGPLANT
This recipe can be made 
without the meat.

1 large eggplant
1/4 lb ground beef or chicken
4 dried Chinese mushrooms, reconstituted in warm water
2 tbs minced fresh ginger
3 tbs minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped chives
3 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs vinegar
1 tbs chili garlic sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbs water
3 tbs vegetable oil
Method
Slice and salt eggplant, let rest for 15 minutes. Rinse, pat dry and cut into julienne thin strips.
Season the meat with one-tablespoon ginger, one-tablespoon garlic, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and one-quarter cup chives.
Squeeze mushrooms, remove stems and slice thinly.
Make sauce by combining sugar, remaining soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil and water.
In a wok or frying pan heat one-tablespoon oil, add meat and mushrooms and cook until meat is brown.
Remove meat from pot, wash pot and return to the heat.
Add remaining oil and when hot add remaining garlic and ginger.
Add eggplant and stir constantly, cover and simmer until eggplant is tender about 15 minutes.
Add meat and stir, add sauce and stir until well combined.
Taste and adjust seasonings, sprinkle with remaining chives.
Serve hot with steamed rice.
• Serves 4

 

STUFFED EGGPLANT
1 medium sized eggplant
1/4  cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 cup cooked rice
1 tomato (diced)
1 green sweet pepper diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method
Cut the eggplant lengthwise and scoop out the meat leaving about 1/2-inch meat around the shell.
Dice the eggplant meat.
Place the eggplant shells cut side down in a large skillet with about 1/2-inch boiling, salted water.
Cover and steam for about 3 minutes. Drain and reserve.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan, add garlic and onion, sauté until fragrant. Add eggplant and sauté.
Add tomatoes, and sweet pepper, cinnamon and paprika.
 Add cooked rice and stir to combine.
Add salt and black pepper. Stir in mint and taste and adjust seasonings.
Divide mixture into two and stuff into eggplant shells.
Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Place in a heatproof casserole dish; add about 1/4 inch water. Bake in preheated 350F oven and for about 20 minutes until shells are tender.
• Serves 2 to 4

 

EGGPLANT PAKORAS
1 eggplant, (sliced, salted, cubed)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped chadon beni
2 cups besan, channa flour
1/4    cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pepper sauce
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
water
oil to fry

Method
Place all the ingredients into a bowl, combine well, and pour in a little water at a time to make a thick paste enough to cover the vegetables.
Drop into hot oil and fry until golden.
• Makes 15