In our house, we call them brinjals, and other people call them melanzane or egg plants. You either like them or you don’t – like a friend’s daughter who, when she was little, announced to her mother
I don’t want to eat allmyjeans!!
It took a while to work out that then little girl, now a beautiful young woman, meant aubergines…
We grow brinjals – the variety we have grown, are beautiful, shiny and a glossy deep, deep purple, and feature in cuisine from all shores of the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Smaller varieties, in other colours, are a feature of Asian food. We’ve grown them, too, and I’ve served them – stuffed as a vegetarian option for Sunday Supper.
We always have brinjals in the fridge. Our regular Sunday breakfast includes a slice of fried brinjal, something I used to feel somewhat guilty about until Tim Noakes’ flip to a high-fat diet!
I have, subsequently, made some changes to my own diet that echoes those tenets. That, however, is a story for another time.
Brinjals are really versatile. One can do much more with them than the relatively popular Melanzane Parmigiana and Moussaka in which they are centre pieces.
I must also mention that brinjals are not as fiddly to cook with as they used to be: most recipes recommend that you salt and allow them to stand for half an hour to remove the bitterness. Modern horticulture has developed brinjals that are no longer bitter. I never salt brinjals anymore, and I don’t recall the last time we had a bitter brinjal.
So, here are two awesome, really quick and easy things to do with aubergines, followed by a special request:
Brinjal, together with courgettes are an integral ingredient of Ratatouille, the dish that famously turned food critic, Anton Ego, into a warm human being, fond of rats…
Its fancy name (pronounced rat-a-too-ee) belies how easy it is to make: sauté a chopped onion in olive oil, followed by one or two cloves of garlic, chopped, a diced robot of bell peppers, brinjal and courgettes (zucchini), adjusting quantities so that they are in proportion. Finally, add two or so skinned, chopped tomatoes. Some recipes suggest mushrooms and no brinjals, while others include both. It’s up to you. The most difficult part of this dish is not to overcook it – you want lovely liquid from the various vegetables but you don’t want them to turn to mush, so watch the pot! As it’s just about done, add a good handful of fresh, chopped oreganum and/or italian parsley.
More recently, I’ve taken to roasting the peppers and then adding them towards the end, which I did here:
Serve hot or cold – with pasta, beautiful bread or rice – accompanied by a sprinkling of cheese (mild or strong, depending on your preference).
Ratatouille makes a lovely side dish, vegan or vegetarian meal.
Grilled Brinjal salad with a chilli yoghurt dressing
This is a variation on a platter served at Jakes in the Village, a few years ago, and a favourite spot when we lived in Cape Town. We enjoyed it so much, I experimented and have now made it my own. The salad consists of slices of brinjal, grilled, placed on a bed of leaves and drizzled with a yoghurt dressing. This simple dressing is made from plain yoghurt, a little chilli jam (or fresh chilli, chopped and some honey) lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Of course, garnish with fresh coriander which works so well with chilli!
In this salad, I added fresh avocado and dill.
Keeping a paté promise
This post was one of my first – back in 2014. It makes me realise how far I have come – blogging, cooking and taking happy snaps of my food. I do admit that some of those early posts have been consigned to cyber oblivion. No blockchains then. Again, another conversation for another time.
This morning, a friend reminded me of a paté I used to make. Often. I first ate it in the home of a former uni lecturer and world expert in Dickens. She subsequently gave me the recipe book from which it came. Some time in the last nearly twenty years, I lent it to someone, I don’t know whom, and I’ve never had it back. I’ve continued making the paté – from memory. In the original version of this post, I gave the recipe somewhat en passant: just a list of ingredients and a basic process, but not much else.
Peculiarly, I have been thinking about this recipe because it’s the season when our market is quite busy and vegetarian options in greater demand. I learned that it’s not like the chicken liver paté and hummus that are constant good sellers, so I’d not done it for a while.
It is not the middle eastern baba ghanoush of which I am not fond. Perhaps I’ve not had a “good” one. Equally, it’s possible that I’ve had a “good” on a meze platter and not known what it is. It is vegan. My bringal paté is not, but the cottage cheese can be substituted with vegan cheese. It’s simple – roasted brinjal, cottage cheese, garlic and fresh herbs. A remembers it from happier days when we sat in our Cape Town garden enjoying spritzers and not talking shop or, heaven help the world, Covid.
Good times as colleagues and friends and good to remember them now – and to be able to keep a promise.
For you, A, and now I’ve applied my mind, the recipe is here.
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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