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New for me…Aubergines

I have no idea why it took me so long, but I have to confess that it has taken me until recently to actually cook with aubergine at home!  I have eaten aubergines in restaurants on several occasions but for some reason, it’s one food which I haven’t added to the shopping trolley until recently.  Let’s start by clarifying that aubergine (also known as eggplant) it is actually a fruit, however it is mainly used in meals as a vegetable.  The egg shaped purple “fruit-vegetable” is a truly  versatile food that can be cooked in many ways and incorporated into stir fries, omelets, curries and ratatouilles.

Nutritional Benefits

If you’re looking for a filling food with virtually no impact on your waistline, then the high-carbohydrate, low-calorie eggplant is definitely worth a try. A cup of cooked aubergine provides 30 calories and 3 grammes of fibre (12% of daily fibre needs) which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Aubergines contain “a little bit of everything” in relation to the fat and water soluble vitamins and it is abundant in the mineral manganese, which is involved in the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates.

It isrich in phytochemicals, some of which are being studied in relation to cardiovascular health; nasunin is an antioxidant phytochemical found in eggplant skin and is believed to protect the fat structures of human brain cells. 

As mentioned in a previous article for the Kilkenny Reporter, there is substantial scientific evidence to support the recommendation for regularly consuming berry type fruit for heart health.  Research has found that eating berry fruit three times per week reduces the risk of young women developing a heart attack by a whopping 32%.   Aubergines are found to provide the beneficial compounds called anthocyanins, which are also found in blue-black coloured fruits e.g. blackcurrants, blackberries, cherries and blueberries.

Cooking Tips

Whilst I am not a chef, there are some tips which I have picked up from my Dietitian and chef friends…grill, bake or stir frying are good options when using this ingredient.

Eggplant is one vegetable for which slight undercooking will not work. It must be completely cooked through until it’s meltingly soft, smooth, and creamy; only then will it be flavorsome and receptive to the other flavors with which you might blend it. I have used it as a vegetable in a pasta chicken dish; just stir frying it with the other vegetables and meat but I find that it takes aprox 10 minutes to cook i.e. a little more time than the other vegetables.  I have also taken an aubergine and sliced it length-ways into four slices, brushed it with a little oil and then topped each slice with finely chopped onion, peppers, garlic, tomatoes and lastly with a sprinkle of mozzarella or parmesan cheese. For my “to do list” having found an interesting recipe, is to use aubergine slices instead of lasagne sheets for a lasagne with a twist!