If you asked a random person when aubergines were first commonly used in this country, I guess many people would say – like I would have done, that apart from restaurants which might have dishes with them as an ingredient, then it would be at the earliest, 1970’s. Well, no! I can’t give a date because I don’t know; they do not appear in Eliza Acton’s 1845 cookery book – not as aubergines or egg plants, although in looking up eggs I find she has recipes for egg balls, egg sauce for calf’s head, swan’s egg to boil hard, swan’s egg salad, to dress guinea fowl eggs and turkey eggs.
In my dad’s gardening book – his version was 1948 but it’s at least ten years older, there are instructions on how to grow the fruit:
EGG PLANT (AUBERGINE)
General. The egg-plant is a delicious vegetable that is seldom grown. It takes up little space and is a welcome change to have occasionally. It is grown like tomatoes.
Sow. February in heat.
Plant. June, about 1 ft apart.
Cultivation. The base of a south wall is the best position because here the plants can be kept warm. The soil should contain plenty of leaf-mould
Varieties. Purple, White.
Season of use. August.
Looking for recipes I come across several in my 1920’s Modern Practical Cookery; deep-fried like potato chips or grilled in melted butter, but there is also a recipe for stuffed aubergine:
- 1 aubergine, parboiled fr 20 mins in salted water
- 2 oz mushrooms, peeled, stalked, finely chopped (these days we wouldn’t peel or stalk them)
- 2 tbsp finely minced onion
- 1½ oz breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
- 1½ oz butter
- grated cheese
- carefully cut the aubergine in half length-wise and scrape out the flesh
- rub the flesh through a sieve or chop finely (or blitz in a blender)
- fry the mushrooms for a couple of minutes in the butter
- remove mushrooms and using the same butter, fry the onion
- mix all the vegetables and breadcrumbs and season
- put the filling into the aubergine skins, place on a buttered tray and place in the oven
- bake for about 20 mins, sprinkle with more breadcrumbs and or cheese before serving
I think that sounds rather good!