Triumphant Aubergines

The first precious homegrown one

I cooked this first homegrown aubergine in a tray of mixed roasted vegetables – nestled alongside courgette, tomato, red onion and a bit of old sweet potato.

It was firm yet tender – different to the ones I buy.

And I have a couple more that are almost ready.

The consistent heat we’ve had has meant the first signs of a decent crop.

I tried last year.

I’m wearing my dad’s old sweater so it must be autumn.

I left picking the tiny fruit for as long possible in the vain hope it might get bigger.

I was not impressed.

Some growers find it worthwhile to buy grafted plants which are better suited to a cooler climate and are more productive.

And it helps if you have a glasshouse or polytunnel.

Anyway roll on 2018 and I sowed some swapped seed (Bellezza Nera) in February.

Despite the cold snap that halted all seedling growth in March I eventually had some decent looking plants.

I gave away a lot to the allotment project where I volunteer.

Unfortunately they have succumbed to red spider mite which leaps into action when it’s very dry.

The six remaining plants I’ve kept in the glasshouse in pots.

One had to be binned as it had the mite too and I despaired of the others but picked off badly affected leaves.

They are normally healthy green and velvety but if they’re attacked by the red spider mite they become speckled with fine pale spots and turn a dry sandy brown.

But I read that keeping the leaves moist with water  can arrest it’s development and…

Hurrah! It seems to have worked.

It’s easy enough to do this with a hose that has a fine spray setting and I make sure both sides of the leaf are drenched in water – I do this every couple of days.

Next year I will buy in some biological control (natural predators) at the beginning of the season to make sure they don’t come back – as they can over winter.

How to eat

Roasted aubergines are unctuous and melt in the mouth.

The middle eastern dip – Baba Ganoush is easy enough – just make sure you puncture the aubergines with a fork before you put them in the oven.

A couple of months ago I tried with shop bought fruit and they exploded as I took them out – all over the kitchen floor.

Fortunately it had just been cleaned so I scraped them into a bowl and used them regardless following Nigel Slater’s recipe – essentially just like hummus but no chickpeas.

I thought I’d also share these recipes  that I have made several times.

This is me cooking the pilaf at a cookery workshop a couple of years ago – you can see the “graffiti” aubergines bottom right

The first is another Ottolenghi recipe, Aubergine, bulgur and lentil pilaf.

My sister and her family loved it when we cooked it together.

The only thing I changed was I didn’t fry the aubergines.

I tossed them and onion in a small amount – maybe a couple of tablespoons – of good olive oil before baking in a hot oven for twenty minutes or until golden.

I also used margarine or olive oil instead of butter for the bulgur at the end.

No butter but chutters galore

The second recipe is a sugar free chutney which is a little like a Brinjal sweet pickle.

It’s nicked from a wonderful book by macrobiotic chef Dunja Gulin.

There are heaps of other really good recipes in the book





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