Eggplant is a great African health food and is cooked all over the continent in all kinds of different ways. It is a versatile vegetable that can make a solid stand-in for meat. It’s hearty, filling nature means it can stand alone as a main dish as well.
Let’s talk about eggplant’s taste and texture, which is what puts some people off. Sometimes, eggplant can come across as slimy, oily or bitter. It’s all in how you cook it, though. With the right cooking methods and very little work, eggplant can become a vegetable included in the repertoire of your African kitchen.
Let’s look at some of the ways we can prepare eggplant. Please note that this article is about recipes with eggplant, not about how to cook the small and bitter “African eggplant” or “bitter ball.” You can find that here.
The first thing to say about recipes with eggplant is that many of them use far too much oil. Raw eggplant takes on spongy qualities as it cooks and it’s very easy to saturate the vegetable entirely in oil. We’ve all had bad eggplant cooked this way. We suggest leaving out the oil entirely and substituting oven-roasted eggplant when the vegetable is meant to be deep-fried.
How to Roast an Eggplant (Easy)
Eggplant is particularly delicious when it’s roasted, particularly over an open flame. This is much easier done than you think: place a whole eggplant over a gas burner and turn it every now and then as it blisters and blackens. The most gorgeous smell will fill your house, as if something complicated and delicious is cooking. No one will suspect it’s just an eggplant.
When the entire mass collapses, move it delicately to a bowl or pot and cover it. You want the steam from the eggplant to help dislodge the blackened skin. When it cools enough, peel the skin away gently with your hands, throwing it in the *compost* and keeping the eggplant flesh. It will smell smokey and now be ready to use in all kinds of recipe preparations.
Roasting eggplant on your gas stove-top flame does make a bit of a mess, so if you’re looking for an easier way, we suggest oven-roasting. Even if you don’t have an oven in your small kitchen or apartment, you can use a toaster oven for this; it will just take a bit longer.
To roast an eggplant, you cut it into the size you want and coat it in a bit of oil and salt, gently, with your hands. Then you chuck it into the oven on a baking tray and stir it every 10 minutes or so until it smells good enough to eat. This doesn’t take long, but depends entirely on the quality and condition of your oven. The eggplant will become translucent and tender when it’s done.
At this point, your cooked eggplant can be used in any variety of rice, vegetable and meat recipes. It can be minced and used in a rice or grain stuffing, mixed into sauces and stews, and is especially good as an additional ingredient in curries.