Known as eggplant in America and Australia, the aubergine is a popular vegetable in European and Asian cooking. There are two common varieties, one from South-East Asia that is smaller than the more common European shape - a long bulbous veg. Both have a deep purple glossy skin, though there are white varieties too.
How to cook
Their smokey flavour suits griddling or frying but they stay firm enough to be halved and stuffed then roasted.
A summer veg, it is most widely available from late May until the end of September.
Look out for ones with a shiny, smooth skin and those that are heavy and firm.
There is no longer the need to salt them first, as they're not as bitter as they were in the past. As they soften when cooked, they're best thickly sliced or cubed before using. Watch the amount of oil you use, as they will soak up masses of oil if they have the chance.
Keep in the fridge, in the salad drawer. They won't keep for ages, but should be fine for a few days.
Not often served just as a side veg, they are a key ingredient in moussaka or ratatouille. They work brilliantly in curries as they provide bulk as well as taking on all the spicy flavours.