Eggplant is one of those plants I seem to be able to grow quite successfully without much effort. In the past I’ve grown them from seedlings, this year in my quest to grow from seeds I started them in seed trays and then planted out the seedlings when they were big enough. Initially I had trouble getting the seeds to germinate – I had the same trouble with capsicums – but the second lot of seeds were more successful and I ended up with seven plants in the garden. Three were far more productive than the others for some unknown reason and as they were planted out a little later than I would have liked, I haven’t picked as many this year as I have in the past. I also went with the large variety (I can’t remember the specific name) whereas in the past I’ve grown Lebanese eggplants which are long and skinny. I was absolutely swimming in them last year with only three plants, so it’s probably a good thing that production was down a bit. Anyway, my point is I always have lots of eggplants to use up towards the end of Summer and through the Autumn and I have found some lovely things to do with them. Here are my Top Five Ways with Eggplant.
1. Eggplant Parmigiana
I made this dish last week when I collected the last decent amount of eggplants of this season. This was also going to be my focus for Tuesday Night Vego until I realised that it quite a time consuming dish to prepare. Think lasagna, but with eggplant slices instead of pasta sheets. The tomato sauce I used was also home made from home grown tomatoes that a friend gave me a little while ago – she really had a bumper tomato crop! – so it was extra special. Add some home grown basil and you got just about a 100% home grown dish (apart from the cheese). This dish is probably the one reason I decided to go with the bigger variety over the Lebanese ones which aren’t really appropriate for making parmigiana. The only problem with the bigger ones is that they really do need degorging (cutting up, sprinkling with salt and and leaving for an hour) unless you pick them really young.
2. Stuffed Eggplant (Imam Bayildi)
This was the focus of my first attempt at Tuesday Night Vego Challenge post and it was a real winner all round, which is a great achievement in my house. I think what is great about eggplant is that, for a vegetable, it is sort of meaty so I can get away with it a bit more when feeding committed carnivores. It also goes so well with tomatoes, capsicums and cheese, all favourite foods for the fussy Miss Three as well as Mr Good and I – and of course Miss One, but then she eats everything (except the saffron fish cakes I made last night as it turns out).
3. Spicy Eggplant Spaghetti
This is one I haven’t made for a while as it’s a bit too spicy for the girls, but a great meal if it’s just Mr Good and I eating it. It’s a quick and simple meal that can easily be whipped up on the spur of the moment. Start by browning 2 red chillies, onion, crushed garlic and 4 rashers of bacon all diced evenly in olive oil, set aside. Then in a little more olive oil, fry 400g diced eggplant in two batches (or one if you have a really big frying pan like I do) until browned on all sides. Return the bacon mixture and add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 chopped tomatoes and some shredded basil. Serve on top of cooked spaghetti with some shaved parmesan.
4. Thai Green Curry
This one doesn’t showcase just the eggplant, it can highlight lots of different vegetables (beans spring instantly to mind) and is great with chicken or prawns, but I think eggplant is a fantastic inclusion (even better if you find Thai eggplant). I’m sure everyone has a recipe for green curry so I won’t share one here. If I was to make any curry – which I don’t often when catering for Miss Three and Miss One – my first choice is always a Thai green curry, it’s also what I order if we go out for Thai and it’s just not the same without eggplant.
5. Caponata or Ratatouille
I’m going the cheat here and include two, quite similar dishes in the one spot. Liz recently wrote an interesting post on caponata using two different versions of this versatile dish. She road tested recipes from Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, but there are thousands of different ones around, so it’s just a matter of finding a combination that you prefer. The same could be said for ratatouille. Caponata and ratatouille are wonderful because they can be used in so many ways, as a side dish, a light meal on their own, with some pasta, as a filling for a tart, on top of fish, steak or burgers, with ricotta, the list is as long as your imagination.
There is one eggplant dish that hasn’t found a spot in my Top Five list because I haven’t actually cooked it myself, but it is my all time favourite eggplant dish, Japanese Eggplant with Miso. I order this at Chocolate Buddha or Peko Peko every time I eat there, they do it quite differently but both are yummy. Having done a little web research just now, I’ve found this recipe which looks really simple. I’ll give it a go (hopefully I have enough eggplants left for one last meal) and report back.
And there’s my list, after some more, check out Liz’s great gardens for kids post.