Most people are not too fond of eggplant, brinjal or aubergine, as it is also known. The vegetable comes in two shapes —it can be round or thin and long—and in three colours—purple, white and green. But this vegetable, often elbowed out from plates because of its bland, slightly bitter taste and unappetizing look, scores high when it comes to health benefits.
The festive season is a good time to plate it more often. For this is a season when people eat a lot of junk food; this makes the gut acidic and can lead to disorders. “A perfect antidote is to begin eating food that can help make our gastro system alkaline—and eggplant helps do just that,” says Reeti Kapoor, senior dietitian, dietetics and nutrition at the Venkateshwar Hospital in Dwarka, New Delhi
Aubergine delivers plenty of nutrients at a very low calorie cost. “About 250g gives only 60 calories, nil fat and 2.2g protein. It is high in dietary fibre (7.5g), is about 95% water and delivers several B vitamins, including B-1, B-3 and B-6, which are essential for optimum fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism in the body. It is the perfect stay-thin food,” says Namita Nadar, head, department of dietetics, at the Fortis Hospital in Noida, near Delhi. “The fibre in it also keeps the bowels working fine, and prevents constipation. A natural laxative, really!” she adds.
In addition, it delivers a whopping 570mg potassium per 250g, which is important to keep blood pressure under control and maintain the body’s electrolyte balance. “Eggplant has magnesium, which helps keep the heartbeat regular and the functioning of nerves, normal,” says Kapoor. “Plus, magnesium buffs up our immune system, saving us thus from seasonal ills and viruses,” she adds.
Rich in antioxidants
That’s not all. Brinjals have a lot of antioxidants, particularly chlorogenic acid, a wonder pigment which works on four fronts: It fights free radicals and many viruses, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, and provides protection against cancer. For this compound alone, it makes sense to eat more of this spongy-textured vegetable.
“Another reason to learn to love aubergines is that they are loaded with another antioxidant, anthocyanin, which is a proven cancer slayer, anti-aging panacea, inflammation-cutter, and is heart-protective too,” adds Nadar.
When you cook it, try not to toss away the skin; it is full of fibre, potassium and magnesium and yes, anthocyanins. “Avoid frying, though, as it acts like a sponge and soaks up the oil. And try to have it at least twice a week,” says Kapoor.
It is very easy to put more of this versatile food on your plate. It can be roasted, grilled, fried, steamed, or sautéed. Here are two recipes.
Tarte flambé of smoked aubergine goat’s cheese
2 thin-crust, round pizza bases (12 inches)
60g ready-made pizza sauce
5g basil leaves
K tsp oregano
2 medium eggplants (1kg)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp olive oil
100g mozzarella cheese
50g goat cheese
50g rocket leaves
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
20g pine nuts
Wash and rinse the eggplants, slit them, put in two garlic cloves. Drizzle some olive oil and roast it over open flame till it is tender (about 3-4 minutes). Cool it to room temperature, peel off the skin, remove the seeds and mash it into a purée. Add salt. On the round, thin- crust pizza base, apply the pizza sauce and sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese. Now crumble smoked aubergine purée over the pizza and bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 9 minutes, rotating it every 3 minutes. Simultaneously, marinate rocket leaves in balsamic vinegar for a minute.
After baking, sprinkle oregano, spread crumble goat cheese and marinated rocket leaves, basil leaves, garnish with pine nuts and serve.
Smoked eggplant in spiced marinade
2 medium aubergines
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp coriander seed, ground
Salt and pepper, to taste
30ml olive oil
Wash and rinse the aubergines, slit and put garlic cloves. Drizzle some olive oil and roast it over open flame till it is tender. Cool it at room temperature, peel off the skin and remove the seeds. While the aubergines are cooling, make a marinade of ground coriander seeds, salt, pepper and olive oil. Mix the aubergines with the marinade and put it in a chiller. Serve chilled.
—Recipes by chef Dhruv Oberoi, sous chef, Olive Qutub, New Delhi.