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Aubergines have two seasons in our veg bags – in spring they come from Spain as their season starts earlier than ours and they help fill the bags in the slightly awkward Hungry Gap. And then in summer the English aubergines come into full swing and we have a multitude of shapes, sizes and colours of aubergines from our local growers.
We come across two common questions around aubergines – whether to salt them and how to avoid getting that spongey squeaky texture.
Firstly, salting – some recipes will tell you to sprinkle your cut aubergine pieces with salt and leave to sit for up to an hour. Who has the time?! Originally salting was done to sweat out the bitter juices, but over the years this bitterness has been bred out of them. Sweating also helps to collapse the cell walls which prevents them soaking up oil like a sponge. However, the jury’s out on how necessary and effective this is. If in doubt, don’t bother salting. Just get stuck straight into the cooking.
Another complaint about aubergine is the spongey, squeaky texture. This occurs when they haven’t been cooked for long enough. The secret to getting aubergines satisfyingly soft and buttery inside is to cook them for a long time – or at least on a high heat so they cook thoroughly – and that sponginess will break down into soft creamy tenderness.
Here’s some recipes to get you going from the Mediterranean, to South East Asia to the Middle East: