Sunday, November 25, 2012

Do you know aubergine is a fruit?

When I was kids I didn't like eggplant because the texture is kind of mushy. This was maybe passed down from my dad,  he doesn't like it either. But since I learned how to make the famous Chinsese dish Yu-Shiang Eggplant en Casserole, even my dad fell in love with eggplant. 

Speaking of eggplant, maybe I should start using aubergine since I live in UK now. Actually calling it aubergine is more accurate, because some 18th-century European cultivars which were yellow or white resembled goose's eggs, hence the name "eggplant".  Nowdays the purple one is more popular and aubergine is also the name of the purple color resembling that of the fruit. 

Talking about the name of this fruit (not vegetable! surprise?) in Mandarin name "qie zi"(茄子), which is when you take a photo you will say just like you say "cheese".   In Shanghainese the aubergine has a more beautiful name "luo su"(落苏)

The first known written record of this plant is found in Qí mín yào shù, an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544.  Aubergine provides a lot of surprises!

Aubergine-Wrapped Ricotta Gnocchi

Adapted from Ottolenghi cookbook

Serves 4 as a start or 2 as a main dish


  • 1 small long aubergine
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
         Ricotta gnocchi
  • 30g pine nuts, or walnuts lightly toasted chopped
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 35g plain flour
  • 40gr Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
         sage butter
  • 70gr butter
  • 20 sage leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice


In a large bowl, mix together 40gr Parmesan, the flour, egg yolks, salt and ricotta. Add the parsley and basil, mix thoroughly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.

Trim off the top and the bottom of the aubergine and slice to the thickness of a pound coin lengthways. Brush liberally with olive oil and griddle until soft. 

Scoop a large tablespoon of the gnocchi mixture and using wet hands, shape into a barrel shape and set aside. I found  bite size is easy to eat, so I made 8 out of this mixture. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and simmer them, 4 at a time. They are done when they float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon transfer them to a  kitchen towel to drain. Once the dumplings are cool, wrap the aubergine around them carefully. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 

Place the aubergine-wrapped gnocchi in an oiled dish and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan and simmer until light brown in colour. Turn off the heat, add the sage leaves and the lemon juice.

To serve, place the gnocchi on the plate and pour the butter over it with a few sage leaves.

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