There are many different varieties of eggplants grown around the world. In Australia, the most commonly available are Western or globe (the classic large dark purple variety), Japanese (long, slim and purple), Thai (small, round and lilac, green or cream in colour) and pea (a little bigger than actual peas, they grow in clusters and can be purple, green, orange or red).
Year-round but at their best from mid-summer to mid-autumn.
Choose eggplants that are heavy for their size and have taut, glossy skin.
Eggplants will keep well for two to three days at room temperature. Best not to refrigerate them.
Traditionally eggplants were salted to remove any bitter flavour prior to cooking. This is no longer necessary but salting them reduces oil absorption during the cooking process. To salt, cut eggplant into slices, sprinkle with salt and leave for at least 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels before using. Dipping them in breadcrumbs or flour also helps them absorb less oil.
5 quick ways with eggplant
Use roasted eggplant slices on pizzas, hamburgers and sandwiches. Slice into 1cm-thick slices, rub with olive oil and roast in a moderate oven for 20–30 minutes.
For a fast entree, roast eggplant as described above, then layer with slices of tomato and cheese and top with a basil leaf. Cut into 1cm-thick slices, then cut slices into strips. Steam until soft, then dress with 1 tablespoon each salt-reduced soy sauce and mirin, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
To make baba ghanoush, prick eggplant all over with a fork, then bake in a moderate oven until collapsed. Scoop out flesh and mix with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup tahini and 1 crushed garlic clove.
Cut into 1-2cm cubes and fry in a little olive oil until soft and golden, then add to your favourite tomato-based pasta sauce.