Eggplants, also known as aubergines, are always plentiful in the markets. Fresh one should be firm to the touch and have glossy purple skins.
Aubergines can be prepared in many ways – they can be sliced into 5mm - 1cm slices, sprinkled with salt and left in a sieve for about 30 minutes to one hour, during which time a lot of liquid will be drained off. Rinse under cold, running water and dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Dip in beaten egg and then into seasoned breadcrumbs, pressing them on firmly. Deep fry a few at a time in hot oil, or bake at 190C/375F/gas mark 5, until brown and crispy. Drain thoroughly and serve hot.
Another more elaborate, but simple way of serving eggplants is to stuff and bake them, like the recipe below.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
4 large eggplants 3 tbsp (45ml) grated cheese
2½ tbsp oil 200g fresh oyster mushrooms
1 large onion
2 large tomatoes
2 sprigs coriander 100g soft, white breadcrumbs
Salt, ¼ tsp ground black pepper
1. Finely chop the onion and coriander. Clean mushrooms and chop finely. Put the tomatoes in hot water for a few minutes, cool, remove and discard the skins and chop the flesh finely. Cover and put aside.
2. Cut each eggplant in half lengthways and score (etch or scratch) the flesh with the tip of a sharp knife. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 mins. for the excess water to drain off. Rinse and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.
3. Brush with a little oil and grill under low heat for 20-25 mins. or until tender.
4. Carefully remove the eggplant flesh leaving about ½ - 1 cm of the pulp still attached to the skin. Keep the eggplant shells aside and finely chop the flesh you have removed. Cover and keep aside.
5. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small saucepan and fry the onions and mushrooms on medium heat. Add the tomatoes and coriander and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the eggplant pulp and half of the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and mix well.
6. Pile this mixture into the eggplant shells. Mix the remaining breadcrumbs with the cheese and sprinkle this over the top of the stuffing mixture. Drizzle the top with a few drops the remaining ½ tsp of oil. Bake at 200C/400F/ gas mark 6, for about 20 mins. Serve hot as an appetizer and enjoy!