With their glossy, dark purple skins, aubergines are one of the most elegant-looking vegetables you’ll find in the shops. Although available all year round, they're at their best – and cheapest – from July to September.
Aubergines feature in cuisines all around the world, most famously in Mediterranean dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille.
Native to India and technically a berry, aubergines are known by various different names. In Britain, we’ve adopted the French word ‘aubergine’ while in North America it’s ‘eggplant’ (reportedly to originate from when white aubergines were compared to swan’s eggs), and in South Asian countries as brinjal.
Aubergines are a good source of fibre, are low in fat and contain some essential vitamins and minerals. They are also low GI, perfect if you are looking for something to add to your meals that won’t raise your blood glucose levels.
They are a staple in many kitchens and, with their uniquely mellow flavour, they combine perfectly with lots of other ingredients.
Buying and storing
- Aubergines are easily damaged, so when buying make sure you pick unblemished and firm ones, with glossy skins and a bright green stems. Discoloration, scars and bruises could be a sign that the flesh is damaged.
- Avoid buying aubergines that feel too light – it could be a sign that they have dried out a little, so opt for a heavier one.
- Although best enjoyed fresh, aubergines will keep for four to six days if stored whole in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. When cooked, they’ll also keep well in the fridge for up to two days.
Tips for preparing
- In the past, salt was added to aubergines to remove their bitterness and moisture. However, these days, they are rarely bitter, so there's no need to include this step. If you do decide to add salt when preparing your aubergine, use a small amount and wash it off before cooking.
- The versatility of this vegetable is endless – it’s perfect griddled, sautéed, roasted, skewered or fried.
- If frying, be aware that aubergines tend to soak up oil very easily. As a healthier alternative, prick several times with a fork and roast whole in the oven for around 30-45 minutes. Wait until cool, peel off the skin, chop the flesh and add to your recipe.
10 ways to cook with aubergines
- Create your own baba ganoush – grill the aubergine whole until the flesh inside is soft, then add to crushed garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and pepper.Create your own baba ganoush – grill the aubergine whole until the flesh inside is soft, then add to crushed garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and pepper.
- Attempt the ultimate Greek dish – moussaka. Replace the lamb with vegetarian mince for a lighter vegetarian version.Attempt the ultimate Greek dish – moussaka. Replace the lamb with vegetarian mince for a lighter vegetarian version.
- Team with courgettes, peppers and tomatoes for a Provençale ratatouille.Team with courgettes, peppers and tomatoes for a Provençale ratatouille.
- Add cubed to curries and stir-fries.Add cubed to curries and stir-fries.
- Roast or grill, before adding to salads.Roast or grill, before adding to salads.
- Blitz for a smooth soup.Blitz for a smooth soup.
- Add to pasta dishes, including risotto and spaghetti.Add to pasta dishes, including risotto and spaghetti.
- Top homemade pizzas with grilled sliced aubergine.Top homemade pizzas with grilled sliced aubergine.
- For barbecues, make kebabs with cubed aubergine, halloumi and chunks of red pepper or slice thickly for a great smoky flavour. For barbecues, make kebabs with cubed aubergine, halloumi and chunks of red pepper or slice thickly for a great smoky flavour.
- Bake in the oven with other veg and lentils, and serve with rice or a jacket potato.Bake in the oven with other veg and lentils, and serve with rice or a jacket potato.