If you've grown up in an Indian home, you'll be familiar with the occasional stomach churning smell of burning, or as my mother would say roasting brinjal. Also known as eggplant or baingan in Hindi, this purple coloured vegetable when roasted starts to turn black on the outside and soft on the inside. The mushy pulp is what's used to make baingan ka bharta.
In the Indian cuisine, you'll find that brinjal is usually prepared as main course. For example, Bainganka Bharta, Khatte Methein Baingan and stuffed or Bharwan Baingan. But you'll find that a lot of other cuisines are more creative with their use of aubergine. They use it in dips, salads, appetizers, stews, lasagna etc. The Greek Moussaka is one such example. It's a beautiful dish with luscious layers of minced meat, tomato sauce, bechamel sauce and sweet eggplants. Then there's Babaganoush which is a middle-eastern, smokey dip made with eggplant, tahini, pepper and olive oil.
Till a few years ago, people would sprinkle some salt over aubergine slices and leave it for about half an hour to dissolve its bitter taste. The vegetable was then washed, cleaned and dried before cooking. However, now this process is no longer a golden rule as the produce you get isn't as bitter as it used to be. But there is another reason why using salt isn't such a bad idea. Salt can actually prevent the aubergine from absorbing more oil and you can still keep applying it before cooking to avoid the extra calories.
Brinjal is a warm season crop and requires a long warm growing season but it can be successfully grown even in the rainy season. Brinjal can be grown in all kinds of soil and is available around the year. Brinjal comes in many different sizes - medium, large and small round ones. The medium sized ones are usually considered to be the best and should be kept at room temperature. Also, be sure to pick the smooth, shiny and heavy ones because they're the freshest. Brinjals should never be eaten raw because they contain a horrid toxin called 'solamine' which can cause gastric trouble, amongst other things. The size and colour of brinjals differs geographically. For example, in China you'll find the slightly narrower kind, more like cucumbers.
A lot of people carry a great dislike for aubergines, but if it's cooked well, it can be absolutely delicious. Besides taste, it's also got a string of healthy properties that might be reason enough to get you to eat it.
1. Aubergines are rich in fiber and antioxidants which work together to keep cancer at bay.
2. Aubergines are great for weight-loss because they're low on calories. 100 grams of aubergine contains something as low as 25 calories.
3. Aubergines are good for your heart and could help prevent heart disease.
4. Aubergines help control blood pressure as they contains potassium which helps maintain an ideal electrolyte balance in the body.
5. Aubergines are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber which helps diabetics.
Some tips on how to cut, slice and dice brinjal and also how to incorporate it in your diet.
1. Instead of a metal knife, use a stainless steel knife to cut the vegetable as it prevents the chemical reaction between pytochemicals present in brinjal and metal.
2. As you cut the brinjal, put the pieces in salt water or sprinkle salt over them. This removes the compounds that render bitter taste to the vegetable, it will also makes your dish more tasty.
3. Brinjal can be added to dishes like sambhar, pizza or pasta. It can be fried, baked, grilled, roasted or steamed.
Recipe by Chef Manju Malhi
Slices of aubergine are put together with tomatoes, thin slices of mozzarella and seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. Add some vinegar to this mix, tomato paste and finally some lemon juice.
Recipe by Chef Mohammad Saqib, Team Pakistan
Slightly burnt aubergine stuffed with some garlic is roasted and mashed along with tomatoes, masala and some salt.
Recipe by Chef Akhtar Rehman, Team Pakistan
Aubergine mixed with spices, green chilli, ginger and onions. Garnish with lemon juice and coriander.
Recipe by Chef Ritu Dalmia
Fry the aubergines, add olives, tomato puree, sugar and vinegar. Let it cool for a day before serving .
Recipe by Chef Sarla Razdan
Deep fry the aubergine, add some salt, red chili powder, clove and keep stirring. Boil for 2 minutes and you're done!
Recipe by Chef Aditya Bal
Add olive oil along with garlic, onion and red chili and the brinjal. Garnish with lime juice and wait till its cool.
Recipe by Chef Manju Malhi
Add cumin seeds, paprika, garlic, tomato and pepper. Also sprinkle some parsley and serve.
Recipe by Chef Divya Burman
Dip each aubergine in egg wash and add cheese. Bake it till its warm and serve.
Recipe by Chef Niru Gupta
A gorgeous middle-eastern dip that's made from smoked eggplant, garlic, salt, lemon, onion, tomato and pepper.
Recipe by Chef Girish Krishnan, Team India
Split the aubergines from the center, add cashew nuts, red chili, some tamarind pulp to get a tangy, delicious and mind-blowing dish.