My mother loves to tell a story about when I was living in the UK and I arrived back home for a visit. Allegedly I opened the fridge and cried: “what no aubergine!”. To her this one phrase signified not only that I had become a horrible food snob but an anglicised one at that. To me it points to a clear neglect of a fabulous vegetable, although she has since mended her ways……In retrospect though I should probably have yelled “what no brinjal!”, as eggplant is a native of India. But then maybe mum was right as its hard to get the same snobby intonation in the word brinjal as it is in aubergine. If you don’t believe me try saying the words aloud. What ever you call it, and you may also be familiar with the Italian Melanzana, or the Arabic al-badinjan to mention but 2 others , its great to grow and great to cook with. Incidently the name eggplant apparently derives from some, then prized, 18th century cultivars which resembled goose eggs and it is this name which is used in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
How I grow it:
I have only ever grown eggplant in pots – although this year I do plan to try them in my main garden bed. I like them in pots though, they fruit, they don’t take up too much space and you can move them to follow the sun to try and get the most out of the season. Eggplants are perennial so they may survive a Melbourne winter. I have yet to achieve this though although I have heard about gardeners locally who have. Eggplants generally need staking to support the weight of the fruit. I fertilise pot grown Eggplants every month with liquid fertiliser as the watering process tends to wash away some of the potting mixes nutrients, but in the ground I think I would rely on nutrients in the soil (provided the soil is of a decent quality) as too much fertiliser may encourage the production of leaves over fruits.
This year I grew eggplants from both seed and store bought seedlings. Both have been successful. The 3 types I have grown this year are: Early long purple, Lebanese bunching and something called ‘Patio Eggplant” and frankly all have had something to recommend them: The Lebanese type has been the most prolific, the long purple has produced nearly as many as the Lebanese type but has far softer skin once cooked and the ‘Patio Eggplant’ has produced the largest and ‘meatiest’ fruit. Perfect for Eggplant or Brinjal Curry.
What I use it for:
In this recipe the eggplant doesn’t really look like eggplant which is a considerable advantage if your 4 year has an avowed dislike of eggplants (referring to it as Brinjal curry also helps in this respect).
- 4 tablespoons canola (or similar light cooking) oil
- 2 onions – chopped
- 3 garlic cloves – chopped
- A knob of ginger (about 2cm in length) – chopped
- ¼ tspn chilli powder or 2 red chillies finely chopped. (This will make it mild as I cook for young children, double (or more) the quantity if you like things hot.)
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- 2 large tomatoes finely chopped
- A small bunch of coriander – chopped
- About 600 – 700 gram of eggplant (you do not need to be exact over or under will be fine)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala*
- Juice of half a small lemon
Prick the eggplants and place on a baking sheet in an oven set to 210 degrees. Cook until the skin collapses when touched. (For a smokier version you can cook the eggplants over a gas flame or BBQ but using the oven works fine and is far less time consuming than cooking them over a gas flame. ) Puree the onion with the garlic and ginger. I find I don’t have to add water when pureeing Australian onions, however if you have a drier variety you may need to add to splash of water into the food processor get a puree.
Heat the oil and fry the onion mixture with the turmeric over a medium heat. Fry until the colour of the mixture deepens and becomes a rich golden colour. Add tomatoes and coriander and chilli. Cook until the tomatoes collapse and merge with the onion mixture to become a sauce. Add the eggplant. Season with salt. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add garam masala and lemon juice. Garnish with additional coriander. Serve
*To make Garam Masala:
I like my garam masala with a bit of cumin and coriander in it – I find it easier to use than the stronger versions which tend to omit these ingredients (and are a lot heavier on the black pepper). You can choose to omit the cumin and coriander from this recipe if you prefer.
- 1 tblspn cumin seeds.
- 1 tblspn coriander seeds
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 tspn cloves
- ¼ of a whole nutmeg grated
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon seed from green cardamom pods
- 1 tspn black peppercorns
Heat a frypan on the top of the stove and add all the spices except the nutmeg and cloves. Dry fry the spices until fragrant. Allow them to cool. Grind all spices together in a spice grinder.
This mixture will keep its flavour for about 3 months (although the fresher the better).