May 2021: Aubergines

Is spring finally here? Perhaps the endless lockdown days of 2020 made it seem so much warmer in April/May, but it’s been so cold lately it hardly feels like spring has sprung at all. Thick soups and stodgy pies have lingered in this extended winter, the idea of fresh salads or dare I say barbecues somewhere off in the distance. Even if the seasons do appear to be fooling us, the appearance of a wider variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables are a sign that this is almost over. More than anything, it’s the burst of colour finally breaking the beige which really signifies that summer is almost here, at least on our plates. Aubergines—or eggplants as they are known outside of the UK—supply the stroke of purple for the vegetable rainbow of May, as well as a delicious ingredient for many dishes.

Though technically a berry, and somewhat sullied by their reputation as a suggestive emoji, aubergines are an immensely versatile vegetable. Deep purple externally with a pale, spongy interior, they are grown across the world and are used in a huge variety of dishes. Their pillowy texture soaks up flavour, making them a fantastic vessel for sauces and spices. In terms of seasonality, they are best from May through to October, which is perfect considering the huge amount of summer dishes that use it as their base.

Storage, Preparation and Usages

Aubergines are available loose at most supermarkets in their standard size and colour, but for baby or marbled/white aubergines a green-grocer might be best. They are fairly affordable, with one standard sized aubergine priced around 70p and enough to serve two people. They just need a quick rinse with running water and their tough green ends chopped off and then they’re ready to use. It’s best to chop up an aubergine right before you want to use it, else it can discolour and look a bit soggy.

In terms of use, the possibilities are endless. Slice into 1cm thick slabs, brush with oil and seasoning and throw on a griddle pan (or barbecue, weather permitting) for a smokey side dish, or dice with onion, courgette, and a tin of chopped tomatoes for a comforting quick stew. Aubergines can withstand a lot of rich flavours on account of their sponginess, and texturally they can hold their own as a substitute for meat in curries or pasta dishes. Lots of herbs and/or spices are needed to really make the most of aubergines, as on their own they can be a bit bland. Sweet, tangy tomatoes pair very well with aubergine, as do red peppers and chillis. The trick is to make the most of their absorbency, layering flavour to really get the most out of these tasty purple veggies.

Why Aubergines?

Aubergines might not scream ‘summer’ like strawberries or salads, but they form the base of many incredible dishes perfect for warmer days. Before long al fresco dining will be preferable, rather than an unfortunate compromise, and I want to share some delicious aubergine meals for when it is. Be it a roasted aubergine and pepper ciabatta sandwich for your picnic in the park, or a luxurious parmigiana served with a glass of wine at the garden table, these purple vegetables can elevate a dish texturally and encourage more liberal use of flavours and spices. It’s nice to be finally back and sharing some brilliant seasonal food with you all!

Published by Jess

Aspiring Journalist and Blogger

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