We’re out to prove that aubergines are one of the best things about late summer! Aubergines are an excellent source of dietary fibre and extremely low in fat. They are a good source of vitamins B1 and B6, and rich in potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese and antioxidants.
Aubergines aren’t technically vegetables — they’re actually berries! While the most common variety in Europe is the bulbous, glossy, deep purple one we see in our shops, there are many others. Aubergines come in purple and white stripes, chalk white, almost black, pink and bright green, and can vary from lime-sized and egg-shaped to long and skinny.
Aubergines are in season from May to August and pair well with tomatoes, cheese, courgettes, peppers, basil, oregano, lamb, garlic, chilli, red wine, olives, capers and chickpeas.
Some top tips for using aubergines:
Buying: A good, fresh aubergine should feel firm and dense, with shiny skin and a leaf cap that’s more green than brown.
Storing: If you’re planning on eating your aubergine that same day, then keep it at room temperature. Otherwise, wrap it in kitchen paper or a paper bag and store in the vegetable drawer in your fridge; this will prevent it from sweating, and should keep a fresh aubergine for 4-5 days.
Using: You can grill, pan-fry, griddle, barbecue and roast aubergines, as well as adding them to stews, curries and casseroles. Well-known aubergine dishes include ratatouille, Parmigiana, baba ganoush, caponata and moussaka.
A note on salting: Older recipes used to require that all aubergines be sliced, sprinkled with salt and allowed to “sweat” for about 30 minutes. This was done to reduce bitterness, and is generally no longer necessary with modern varieties. However, salting aubergines will firm up the flesh and help stop them from soaking up as much oil, so this can still be a useful step for certain recipes — as in our aubergine Parmigiana, below.
These are some of our favourite summer recipes:
This hearty aubergine Parmigiana topped with crisp, golden crumbs is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food. The cheesy layers are always a crowd-pleaser and we can guarantee even the carnivores will be satisfied!
These quinoa-stuffed aubergines are quick and simple, resulting in a fresh, light and flavoursome summer dinner or hearty lunch. The combination of fresh basil, pine nuts, feta and roasted tomatoes will transport your tastebuds to the Mediterranean.
A traditional Eastern Mediterranean dip, baba ganoush is made from roasted aubergine, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and a variety of spices. Packed full of flavour, enjoy it as a starter or afternoon snack.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/210°C fan/gas mark 8 and line a large, rimmed baking tray with parchment paper. Halve 2 aubergines lengthwise and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil. Place them on the prepared tray, cut sides down. Roast for 40 minutes until very soft and tender throughout. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place in a sieve over a bowl. Leave for 10 minutes to release some liquid, shaking and tapping the sieve a little. Discard any liquid and wipe out the bowl, then transfer the aubergine into the bowl. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and 2 tbsp lemon juice. Mash together with a fork until the aubergine breaks down. Add 4 tbsp tahini and stir to combine. While stirring, slowly drizzle in 80ml extra-virgin olive oil. Continue stirring until the mixture is pale and creamy. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh parsley, 12 tsp ground cumin, 12 tsp smoked paprika and a generous crack of salt and black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning or lemon juice if desired. Transfer to a serving bowl and lightly drizzle olive oil on top. Serve with crackers, bread or crudités, or use as a spread for sandwiches.
The traditional first course of a formal Italian meal, antipasti usually comprise bitesize portions that are served on a platter from which everyone helps themselves.
Heat a griddle pan over high. Slice 2 aubergines lengthwise and brush with a generous amount of olive oil. Season generously with salt and black pepper, then griddle until soft and marked with grill lines. As the slices are done, place them in a wide shallow bowl and cover tightly with cling film so that they steam and soften further. Slice 1 yellow and 1 red pepper into quarters, removing the seeds. Slice 4 courgettes lengthwise. Brush the peppers and courgettes with olive oil and season, then griddle in the same way as the aubergines. Add to the bowl, covering with cling film. In a jug, whisk together 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and stir in 1 tsp dried oregano. Drizzle over the vegetables, then cover again and set aside at room temperature for one hour. Transfer to a serving platter, if desired, and serve with good bread and other antipasti, such as cheese, cured meats, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated anchovies and/or olives.