- Low in calories (if baked)
- Large amounts of fat may be absorbed during preparation and cooking
The first varieties of eggplant that English-speakers came across probably bore egg-shaped fruits - hence its name. The glossy purple fruit, also called aubergine, is a familiar component of Indian curries, Greek moussakas and French ratatouille. The raw vegetable contains 15 calories per 100g (3 1/2 oz), but its calorific value rises steeply when it is fried: the same portion cooked in oil contains more than 300 calories because of the extraordinary amounts of fat absorbed.
The tastiest eggplants are young and firm - about 5-8cm (2-3in) in diameter, with a shiny smooth skin and a fresh green stem and cap. Larger, older specimens can be woody and bitter. Miniature, white and mauve varieties are also available.
Salting the eggplants before cooking it draws out the bitter juices and reduces moisture. This makes the flesh more dense so that less fat is absorbed during cooking. When preparing eggplants, slice or cube them with a stainless-steel knife (carbon steel will blacken the flesh) and then sprinkle with salt. Leave for 30 minutes to draw out the juices. Rinse off all the salt, squeeze or pat dry the slices with kitchen paper and cook as soon as possible before the flesh discolours.
The eggplant is native to India, but was also a common food in China as long ago as 600 BC, when it was called the Malayan purple melon. Chinese ladies of the time used it as a beauty aid, staining their teeth black with a dye made from its skin. The vegetable was both prized and feared when it was introduced to Spain by Arab traders during the Middle Ages. For centuries it was valued only as an exotic ornament in Europe because eating it was thought to provoke bad breath, madness, leprosy and even cancer.
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