I grew up thinking brinjals were breakfast food. We often had them fried with eggs – soft and golden and squishy. I guess around the time I discovered they were also called aubergines, I learnt a whole lot of new and delicious ways to use them.
I still sometimes have them for breakfast – here with a goose egg, provided by Susie Anderson’s geese (along the road).
Right now is the height of brinjal/aubergine/eggplant season. Even is Dargle there is an abundance – probably due to the long, dry spell we have had this February. There are none in my garden – it is just too cool and misty, but there have been plenty for sale at the Dargle Local Market.
I use them in curries occasionally and adore baba ganoush – a puree of roasted flesh with North African spices. Caponata – fried cubes mixed with capers and olives and tomatoes is utterly yummy too when they are abundant. Fried or roasted are still my favourite ways to prepare them. They make a great salad with masses of mint, lemon and tomatoes (first pic). Also the perfect accompaniament to couscous and chickpeas, two of my other favourite ingredients.
My friend and fabulous food gardener, Sharon gave us a plump one this week, which I turned into lunch today with Sharon’s handmade cheese, and basil and tomatoes just picked in the garden. Food doesn’t get better than this.
The thing I love most about this dish, besides the deliciousness, is that is makes non-vegetarians weak at the knees. It is so hearty, flavoursome and colourful that it is irresistible to incredulous carnivores. So this is how to make it. Fry or roast thick slices of brinjal – you really just want some colour, they do not have to be completely cooked.
Then the fun bit. Stack layers of brinjal interspersed with basil leaves, tomatoes, feta and mozzarella with lots of black pepper. The colours are gorgeous.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese melts and they are cooked through. I sometimes serve with soft polenta, but today we just had ciabatta. For special occasions, I have made a fresh tomato sugo to drizzle over the top, but a few extra fresh tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon (just plucked from the tree, of course) does just as well. A glass of organic red wine is an essential accompaniment.
Brinjals are originally from India and come in many shapes and sizes. I recall the white and red ones we ate in Prince Albert. Apparently rich in B vitamins and vitamin C too, but that is completely incidental to eating local, plant based and in season. Interesting how that often means most nutritious too.