Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cooking with aubergines

Even though we are sisters, we have a very different approach to food and photography. Each fortnight we are going to choose the same ingredient or theme and post the result. These are results of our first food fight.

Beautiful Thai round aubergines, so easy to cook and cute to display in a bowl on the table.

Aubergines or eggplants, love or hate? These underused and under rated vegetables are the food for our first food fight. The common aubergine in NZ is the large purple oval shaped one (See Ingrid's dish) but if you check out the Asian fruit and vege markets you will find the thin small purple ones and the round, green Thai ones above. 

Food facts 
The Italians call it "melanzane," which means "crazy apple."
China is the top aubergine producer in the world.
An aubergine is almost 95% water.       
Aubergines may worsen the symptoms of arthritis.
An aubergine is actually a fruit.

Thai green chicken curry with aubergines and button mushrooms

Vanessa's dish

Aubergines are often synonymous with Italy (as Ingrid mentions in her blog  below) however I opted for one of my favs "Thai Green Chicken Curry". It actually started when I saw the cutest aubergines at the Asian fruit shop, then found large bags of the smallest button mushrooms - I was in heaven!  Many people I know don't use the Asian fruit and veg shops because they feel a bit out of their comfort zone with all the weird (yes some stuff is) but mostly wonderful products. They really are fantastic, better and more authentic, and even cheaper than the supermarkets. Take a chance and give something new ago.  

Thai green curry with aubergine, chicken and mushrooms
You will need...
Splash of vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Thai  green chicken paste
2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce (it might not smell great but trust me, its delicious and worth using - it gives the salt taste)
2 onions (I used red) 
1 tin coconut milk
water to thin if desired
500grams Chicken Thais oops mean thighs (actually any boneless bits will do, I just prefer the moistness of the thighs) 
Aubergines - one large purple or 8 small green Thai
Mushrooms - a couple of handfuls 
A bunch or two of chopped coriander

How to make
In a deep pan or wok heat the oil and fry the onions, add the green curry paste and fry for a minute or so to release the flavours. ( this bit might make your eyes water so open windows and shut door if kids around).
Add the fish sauce and fry for a minute longer. 
Add the coconut cream, aubergines and mushrooms, simmer gently.
After about 5 minutes add the thinly sliced or chopped chicken. The aim is that the chicken is white rather than golden and that it's really tender hence not over cooking. (its a bit of a juggle getting the cooking time right for the three ingredients but there is leeway and just taste along the way). 
If its thickening up too much, just add water. I used to prefer the thicker creamer curry but now like it better watered down. 

The main tip is not to add too much curry paste at the beginning - its pretty potent and if you are using a low fat option instead of coconut cream there is the potential to split/curdle. I have used evaporated milk and curry paste and it does a pretty good job but heed the advice above and cook on a lower heat. 

To assemble      
Serve with hot jasmine rice and garnished with lots of coriander. 
Small bowls work well as does an icy cold Thai beers such as Tiger or Singa.   
Enjoy!   Vanessa   

These button mushrooms were too cute to leave out of the blog, I didn't even cut all of them and just left them whole.

Ingrid's dish

A great way to use up tomatoes, aubergines and basil, all in abundance in your gardens or at supermarkets right now.

I'm always a little bit embarrassed when people find out that I'm half Italian, and then find out I can't speak a word of it. I'm convinced people think that its compulsory if you grow up with a Papa Guerrino you should speak the lingo. But, you see, my papa was trying to do the 'right thing'. He was immersing himself in New Zealand culture with his kiwi bride, and apart from the Ciao's and the Bella's we all spoke English.

That’s not to say, Vanessa and I completely missed out on the Italian side of things. We were brought up by an accomplished cook who learnt from his mama how to make things the traditional way. We grew up with freshly rolled pasta, handmade gnocchi and lightly dusted crostili.

So for our first food fight challenge, I decided to stick with what I know, Although I changed the Mozzarella (creamy cheese that melts), and went for ricotta. Why? well because it was cheaper (and lower in fat, not that I much care for that) It might not have photographed as well, white blogs instead of sticky cheesy swirls but who wants to add another $10 to a dish. Enjoy…Ingrid

Aubergines are very filling, and have virtually no fat, which makes it a perfect main dish.
Baked aubergine with tomatoes, ricotta and Parmesan

You will need
Serves 6

3 Eggplants
salt/ pepper
3 eggs, beaten

1 onion
1 garlic clove

2 cans, diced tomatoes, or if like me, you have tomatoes growing out of your ears, 12 red tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
bunch of basil
ricotta (this dish traditionally uses bocconcini, or mozzarella, but have you checked out the prices!!!, so I opted for ricotta, it worked well)

How to make
Slice eggplant into 1cm slices, and sprinkle salt. Leave covered in a colander for around an hour. This will draw the liquid out. Pat dry with paper towel. Dip in Flour, then beaten egg and shallow fry each side until golden. Drain on paper towel.

In a pan, add chopped onion and garlic. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and bring to boil. Season. When it starts to thicken, reduce heat and add chopped basil.

To assemble
In a ovenproof dish, coat bottom of dish with sauce and first layer of eggplant on top. Add dots of ricotta and grated Parmesan. Repeat layers and finish with sauce and grated Parmesan on top. Bake at 180C for 30mins. Let it cool for 5-10 mins before serving.


  1. Looks great! I am going to try these both out as soon as possible!!! cheers Eric

  2. Hey Eric, great to get your feedback. Let us know how you get on and keep an eye out for any amazing Dutch recipes we could try...
    V and I