3 Wild Ways with an Eggplant
I remember growing eggplants as a child in Zimbabwe. We had the best vegetable garden on the farm; it was full of artichokes, eggplants and all sorts of deliciousness, but I think the colour of eggplants is what drew me to them. They’re versatile, easy to use and I love the buttery texture and delicious flavour. In South Africa and Zimbabwe these are also called brinjals. Fun fact!
There are so many dishes you can create with eggplants. They are quite prevalent in many countries and cultures, so you can essentially ‘go around the world’ with eggplants. Vegans and vegetarians also rely heavily on these as a ‘steak’ alternative, so they are even more popular now.
I love to either brown them off in a pan, on the BBQ, or under the grill with a light seasoning. One of my favourite ways to season is with my Chef Mel Sexy Black Salt Flakes. I just sprinkle the black salt flakes over the eggplants and voila! They are transformed into fancier egglplants with that dramatic black salt flake adorning each slice. Eggplants don’t need much; all they ask is to be cooked properly. Brown and carmaelized is best, or else they can be very bland. They can be very thirsty and soak up heaps of oil, which tends to make them unpopular, so I restrict the oil and cook them hot and fast so they seal or sear off like a steak. Delicious!
Want to get the most out of your eggplants? Read on for my 3 Wild Ways with Eggplant
This is the easiest and most versatile way, and you can cook 2-3 eggplants in one go! I cook a big batch and then use for various dishes over the next few days.
Slice the eggplant into thick 2-3 cm circles. Sprinkle with good old fashioned sea salt and let the bitter juices gather on the surface. Rinse in a colander and pat dry. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, season with salt or if you have them my Sexy Black Salt Flakes and some crushed black pepper, ever so lightly, and then place in the middle rack of your oven with the max grill on and the oven door closed. You can add garlic cloves and other vegetable on the tray if you have the space too. They should brown up in 8-10 minutes depending on your grill. Turn them over and do the other side. Serve them as part of another main dish or on their own – they’re good hot or cold.
Pan Fry or BBQ
This method is really only efficient for one small to medium eggplant, as most domestic frying pans are about 24-32cm at most. Slice the eggplant into thick 2-3 cm circles, sprinkle with salt and let the bitter juices gather on the surface. Rinse in a colander and pat dry. Season with sexy black salt flakes or your favourite salt, and some crushed black pepper.
Grease a heated large frying pan with 30ml oil and then place roundels down in the pan. Only turn when the first side is gloriously brown, then do the same to the second side. They should be brown and sealed on the outside with a cooked and butter flesh if you pull a knife though to test. Bellisimo! If you’re doing this on the BBQ, it’s pretty much the same way – just make sure it’s pre-heated and very hot, and ensure both sides are brown. Definitely use thicker slices on the BBQ as they will become fragile when cooked. They look amazing with stylish BBQ griddle marks on the surface, which make them great for burger bun replacements or as part of a stylish veg stack. Always cook hot and never stew.
If you’re tiring of potato mash, try eggplant mash! Perfect as a base puree or mash to many mains, especially spiced with fragrant spices like ras el hanout. Also great in traditional dips like baba ghanoush. If you don’t particularly like the colour, you can give this a makeover by adding turmeric, ras el hanout or curry powder flavour to brighten it up. I always garnish with freshly chopped herbs, edible petals and roasted pistachios to pop the colour a bit! Needs to be cooked first of course, so a great idea for leftover eggplant.