We’re always up for trying new things here at MVF, especially when it comes to food. We’ve teamed up with chef Mick Élysée, who specialises in Afro-fusion cuisine, to help us branch out a bit and add some excitement to our kitchen. Mick’s cooking is inspired by his roots in the Congo and he’s just released a cookbook with his guide to healthy eating, African style. Here he explains why you should be eating aubergines and what you should do with them…

While the aubergine (or eggplant) is often associated with Asian food, not many people know that this fruit (it isn’t actually a vegetable) is also a popular ingredient in Central African cuisine, and a lot of the crop is grown in the region.

Most people will recognise the aubergine, and will no doubt see them all the time in their local supermarket, but when it comes to cooking with it, many are fairly clueless.

The African eggplant. Picture from Kitchn

Health benefits

The good news is that African eggplants are great for anyone following a low-calorie diet, with only 17 calories per 100g. However, the important thing is how you cook it – as soon as you fry an aubergine it will absorb oil like a sponge, undoing its low-calorie benefits.

Eating aubergine as a part of a balanced and healthy diet can also help fight fatigue, stress, mood swings and insomnia thanks to the high levels of minerals, anti-oxidants and vitamins. It contains vitamin B6 (which helps the body absorb minerals), vitamin B1, B2 and B5, vitamin K and vitamin C. Aubergine also helps reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the body, and research has shown that the anthocyanins found in aubergines could even help to reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

How to spot a good egg(plant)

When shopping for aubergines it is important to select the ones with a shiny, firm flesh. As soon as wrinkles have started to appear, it is past its best. If you can’t find African aubergines, which are lighter in colour and smaller than the purple vegetables you might be used to seeing, you can substitute with aubergines, which are very closely related.

How to cook aubergine

Aubergines are very easy to cook. To avoid frying in oil you can simply steam for 3 to 5 minutes.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo we usually cook it in soup or as a side dish with grilled fish or meat, but it would also make a great addition to salads with a citrus dressing.

Want to give it a try? My recipe below is nice and easy, and will wow guests as a starter for a dinner party or a date!

Mackerel Marinade with African eggplant

Serves 4, 615 calories per serving

Ingredients

4 fresh mackerel fillets 

Juice of 4 lemons

8 African eggplants

2 large carrots

½ a ginger root

½ bunch of basil

½ bunch of coriander

Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. To make the marinade for the mackerel, peel and cut the ginger, and shallots into thin slices. Julienne the carrot. Chop the herbs and combine all ingredients in a bowl with the oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the mackerel fillets in a dish and cover with the marinade. Mix lightly ensuring each fillet is covered and set aside in the fridge for about 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the eggplant in a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cool and drain. Remove the skin from each eggplant and slice them into quarters. 

To serve:

Place each quartered eggplant on a plate in a circle. Top with the mackerel fillet, then the sliced and julienned vegetables and drizzle with the marinade.

Mick Élysée is an international TV chef specialising in gourmet Afro-fusion cuisine. He regularly hosts pop-up restaurants around London, and his new healthy recipe book Not Guilty is out now. For more information you can find his website here

Are you a lover of aubergine or do you see them in the supermarket and wonder WTF to do with them? We want to hear your thoughts! Let us know over on the forum.