How to chop and cook aubergines

Whether you're stuffing them, roasting them or using them in a salad, aubergines are versatile but easy to get wrong. Great British Chefs show you three different ways to enjoy them

Spicy aubergine salad by Martin Wishart

This aubergine recipe from Martin Wishart takes them out of their more familiar Italian context and douses them in delicious Asian tastes. Makes a great accompaniment to lime-marinated flank steak.

2 medium aubergines
​100ml soy sauce
​100ml mirin
​60ml rice wine vinegar
30g caster sugar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
sunflower oil

Top and tail the aubergines and quarter them lengthways. Cut each quarter into 1cm thick slices, cover with cold water in a bowl and leave to soak. After 15 minutes, drain and pat dry with kitchen paper. Combine the soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar and sugar then add the garlic and spring onions and set aside.

In a large pan, warm enough sunflower oil to cover the aubergine. When the oil has reached 170˚C, add the aubergine and cook until soft in the middle. Remove the aubergine from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain off any excess (you might have to cook this in two batches to ensure consistent cooking). While it’s still warm, add the aubergine to the dressing and mix together. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving.

 

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Aubergine stuffed with Quorn ragu, topped with Parmesan, ricotta and lemon zest by Food Urchin

Danny Kingston serves up a fabulous stuffed aubergine recipe, using Quorn mince to create a rich ragu. He tops off his dish with zingy lemon zest, creamy ricotta and Parmesan for that extra comfort food factor. If cooking for vegetarians, use a similar hard cheese that uses vegetable rennet instead, as Parmesan contains animal rennet.

4 aubergines
​300g Quorn mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
​400g tinned chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch basil, small, leaves torn
​200g ricotta
​100g Parmesan
salt
pepper
1 lemon, zest and juice
extra virgin olive oil
salad leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and scoop out the majority of the flesh with a spoon, leaving an outside border of flesh about 1cm thick. Place the scooped-out flesh in a bowl to one side. Place the aubergine shells on a baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp of oil, then place in the oven and cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, until soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, start your ragu by placing a saucepan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the remaining oil and then add the onion, celery and garlic. Bring the heat down, cover with a lid and gently sweat for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining aubergine flesh and cook for another 10 minutes until everything is gooey and soft.

Add the tomatoes and cook through for a further 10 minutes. Add the Quorn mince, cook for another 10 minutes, then add the torn basil in and stir through. Season to taste and put to one side. For the topping, simply blend the ricotta and Parmesan in a bowl, add a splash of lemon juice and some pepper and combine.

When ready, bring the heat of the oven down to 180°C/gas mark 4. Spoon a level amount of ragu into each aubergine shell and then spread a layer of the cheese mix on top. The end result might look a little bit messy but the topping will brown a touch, so it doesn’t matter. Bake for 20 minutes, until the topping begins to brown. Serve with a sprinkling of lemon zest, a drizzle of extra virgin oil and some salad leaves.

 

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Pasta with aubergines and tomatoes by Francesco Mazzei

Francesco Mazzei serves the Sicilian classic, pasta alla norma or pasta with aubergines and tomatoes. Francesco uses zitoni pasta, however other tubular pastas such as penne or candele lunghe are good alternatives. This recipe is taken from Francesco Mazzei’s book, Recipes from Southern Italy (Penguin Random House, November 2015).

2 tbsp of olive oil
1 garlic clove
8 basil leaves, plus a few extra to garnish
10 anchovy fillets, drained
1 tbsp capers
​400g zitoni pasta
1 aubergine, halved lengthways
​500ml sunflower oil
plain flour, for dusting
2 tbsp pecorino
2 tbsp ricotta, shavings

Tomato sauce

300g white onion, very finely sliced
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1kg large ripe tomato
2 garlic cloves
20 basil leaves
sea salt

Begin by making the tomato sauce. Put the onion into a saucepan with half the oil and let it sweat slowly over a low-medium heat for around 15 minutes until it’s soft (do not allow it to colour). If it looks as though it might catch, add a splash of water to the pan.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Leave to simmer over a low heat for about 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are thick and rich, adding a little water if the level of the liquid gets too low. Remove from the heat. Put the remaining oil in another pan with the garlic and cook over a low-medium heat. When it’s almost golden brown, add the basil leaves and stir. Pass the oil through a sieve into the cooked tomato sauce.

Whisk the sauce to break up the tomatoes. If it’s too thick, thin it with a little water, ideally some pasta cooking water. Pass the sauce through a wide-holed sieve resting over a bowl, and use the back of a ladle to extract the smooth mixture. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. To make the aubergine and tomato pasta, place the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and sweat the garlic until golden. Add the basil, anchovies, capers and 250ml of the tomato sauce and heat through, then keep on a low heat.

Cook the zitoni according to the packet instructions, until al dente, then drain, reserving 240ml of the cooking liquid​. While the pasta is cooking, heat the sunflower oil in a deep saucepan or fat fryer until it reaches 185°C​. Dust the aubergine slices with flour and fry the until nice and golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. It is important to coat the aubergines in the flour as this stops the oil getting to the flesh and prevents the aubergines going soggy. Stir the pasta into the sauce with about a ladleful of the reserved cooking liquid. Mix well, add the pecorino, then divide between warmed serving bowls, top with the fried aubergine slices, then sprinkle over the ricotta and extra basil leaves.

Recipes by Great British Chefs. Visit their site for more awesome aubergine recipes

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