I don’t know about you, but we seem to be doing quite well with the aubergine season this year. Originally from warmer climates, the season is usually from around May until October, but here we are in November and I have had a few recently in my veg box.
Now, if you’re planning a meat free meal, or just to reduce the amount of meat you eat in a certain dish, aubergines are a really good choice. They are high in fibre, B vitamins, potassium, copper, magnesium and manganese, low in fat and, of course, like everything purple, packed full of anthocyanins. More specifically an anthocyanin called nasunin, a free radical scavenger which will help to protect the cell membranes of your brain cells and also to lower bad cholesterol levels. Still, aubergines, or egg plants are one of those vegetables that lots of people don’t exactly enthuse about. Even my boys, who have been known to leave the kitchen stripped bare, like a fast-eating cartoon plague of locusts has been through, don’t jump up and down with excitement when they hear that aubergine is on the menu. Of course, you can always use them (aubergines I mean, not my boys) in place of part of the meat in most minced meat based dishes (bolognese sauce, shepherd’s pie etc), to make a much lighter, healthier but still substantial alternative without altering the flavor of the original dish and leaving those not in the kitchen none the wiser, but I’m never sure about how I feel about hiding vegetables. If you do choose to go down this route, simply roast them (split in half length ways) until they are tender, and then scrape out the insides and add the pureed flesh to the meat after the browning stage. Obviously, you won’t get half of the anthocyanin benefits without the skin, but at least you’ll still be helping both yourself and the planet by cutting down on the amount of meat you’re eating. It’ll be cheaper as well.
Having said that, my first choice when faced with aubergines, is usually to make this pasta sauce. It is robust enough to match the aubergines, with the extra basil thrown in at the end giving a real flavor boost and has the added benefit of being pretty quick and easy. It originally comes from one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes that I found here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/magazine/recipes-view.php?title=pasta-with-aubergine-aamp-tomato-sauce, but, true to form I’ve changed it around a bit to suit our tastes.
Aubergine Pasta Sauce Recipe
Serves 6 easy:
2 aubergines, sliced into rounds
I red onion
Half to one red chilli (depending on how much of a kick you want)
A splash of red wine (if you have it)
3 cloves garlic
2x 400g tin tomatoes
2 tbsps cream/ creme fraiche
Good sized bunch of basil
Mozzarella to serve
Start, as usual, by crushing your garlic and leaving it to one side.
Next soften your onion with the diced chill in a little olive oil for 15 mins or so.
Whilst it is softening, griddle your slices of aubergine to produce a lovely golden color on both sides. I have a great pan that I can use for this so that I need no oil, but you may need to lightly grease your pan. I then quarter each slice, so that you’re not faced with overly large mouthfuls, but that is again, just personal preference.
Pour the red wine into the onion, if you are using it, add the garlic and turn up the heat so that it reduces down slightly, then add the tomatoes and around 50 ml of water.
If you’re going to eat this right away, put your water on for your pasta, and cook it according to the packet instructions.
Leave the sauce to simmer for around 15 minutes whilst the pasta is cooking and when it has thickened slightly, throw in your aubergines and a couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche, or whatever cream you have in the fridge.
Toss through your cooked pasta, along with plenty (and I mean plenty) of shredded basil and as much mozzarella as you can handle.