Bring some colour to your plate and flavour to your tongue in our delightful creole aubergine dish. Creole food is usually associated with the deep South in the United States of America, particularly Louisiana. This style of cooking melds together many different origins, including French, Spanish, African, Portuguese and Native American. The key to creole food and this dish in particular, is the tomatoes. This month we combine tomatoes and aubergine to pack a mighty antioxidant punch, to protect those brain cells.
Health benefits of tomatoes and aubergines
Tomatoes contain high amounts of vitamin A and C (antioxidants), plus folate, biotin, carotenoids and potassium. The bright red colour of tomatoes is a sign of their high lycopene content (lycopene is a carotenoid, which is an antioxidant). They have high water content and are low in calories – so great to include if you are on a diet. They are also extremely tasty and come in many different varieties. Antioxidants, like lycopene and vitamin C, help to reduce or stop cell damage, and so are said to help prevent cancer and encourage heart health.
Aubergines (also sometimes called “eggplant”) are also available in different varieties – the most well recognized are that lovely deep purple colour or stripy purple. This purple colour is a sign that aubergines contain a high amount of nasunin, which is another antioxidant. Aubergines are a good source of vitamins B1 and B6, minerals potassium, copper and magnesium, as well as being a good source of dietary fibre. They too are low in calories. Some research has shown that aubergines are great “brain food” – due to the nasunin content – which helps to protect the membrane of cells, including those much needed (and over-worked) brain cells. (Read more about foods to combat brain fog in our blog article).
Cooking with tomatoes and aubergine
This recipe uses tinned tomatoes – for ease – but you can use raw tomatoes; remember to remove the skin from your tomatoes prior to adding to this recipe, use a fork to break down the tomatoes and to extend the cooking time by 20 minutes to allow the sauce to develop in richness.
As aubergines have a high water content, they have a tendency to go “soggy” when cooked. Some people choose to cover the aubergines in salt for 30 minutes before cooking, an approach used to draw the water out of the flesh of the aubergines. However, here at La Crisalida Retreats, we do not use salt, so instead we tend to cook the aubergine first, to release some of the water, then add it into the dish.
What are nightshades?
Nightshades are a group of flowering plants, which belong to the family “Solanaceae”. Some of these plants are edible, although the majority are not. Aubergines, tomatoes and peppers are part of the nightshade family (so too are potatoes). The lovely spice paprika is made from peppers, so this dish really does bring the main veggies from the nightshade family together into one dish.
Some people are sensitive to veggies from the nightshade family, particularly when a large amount are consumed on a regular basis. Some authors suggest that it is the alkaloid content that people develop a reaction or intolerance to. If you experience a large amount of pain on a regular basis, or have inflammation in your body (such as arthritis), you might benefit from excluding the nightshade family from your diet for a period of time, to see if you are sensitive to nightshades. Read more about how you can use food to relieve pain here.
Creole aubergines recipe
You can eat this dish on its own, or even better serve with rice, veggie burgers or bean balls, and a big fresh green salad.
Calories: 542 total (67 per serving)
2 onions, peeled, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped or crushed
1 green pepper, seeds removed, chopped into chunks
1 red pepper, seeds removed, chopped into chunks
3 large aubergines, cut into cubes
¼ tbsp hot paprika
¼ tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
800g tinned tomatoes (cherry ones are lovely if you can find them)
½ tsp brown rice syrup (agave could be used instead, or other liquid sweetener)
2 tbsp lime juice
Large handful fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
8 lime wedges
Using a large frying pan, cook the aubergine cubes, in batches, for 4-6 minutes, or until golden-brown all over. We use water to cook (instead of oil) so keep an eye on your veggies, so that they do not burn and add more water as required. You will not need very much water as aubergines naturally contain lots of water that is released as they cook. Remove the aubergine chunks from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside on a warmed plate.
In a separate large pan, water fry the chopped onions, stirring well, until softened, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and peppers and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the peppers start to soften.
Add the hot paprika, sweet paprika and cumin into the onion mixture and cook for one minute, or until the spices are fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes, rice syrup, lime juice, cooked aubergines, large handful of fresh parsley and some black pepper.
Pour a large cup of water into the pan, stir well and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and is cooked through. (Add more boiling water if you need it).
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and garnish with wedges of lime to serve.
Remember, if you have any left you can freeze into portions, giving you a quick and easy meal another day.
More plant-based recipes can be found on our blog – search “food recipes”.
Have fun cooking!
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).