Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 14 Sept. 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.
In the belly
The eggplant, also called an aubergine, belongs to the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Like tomatoes, it is really a fruit. When immature it contains toxins that can cause illness (but it grows out of it). People with arthritis and related issues should consider avoiding eggplant and its relatives, because the solanine they contain can be a problem for them. However, eggplant has also been used to reduce other kinds of swelling and bleeding, and to treat dysentery, so you’ll have to make up your own mind whether to eat it or not. Eggplant is full of bioflavinoids, and the skin of the purple varieties contains another kind of anti-oxidant, anthocyanins. It has some nice B-complex vitamins, but it is more known for its minerals, especially manganese, copper, iron and potassium. It is also a very low-calorie fruit and provides plenty of fiber.
Eggplants probably originated in India or Southeast Asia, and was cultivated in China as early as the 5th century. The Moors brought it to Spain in the 8th century, and the Italians were trading with the Arabs for it in the 13th century. In India it is called brinjal, Australians call it an eggfruit, and West Africans call it garden fruit. Some use it to treat scorpion bites or frostbite.
In the kitchen
I went looking for some nice leek recipes because they looked so pretty, and of course I immediately ran up against my collection of Welsh recipes. So here are two traditional Welsh soups and a fairly modern chicken, just for variety.
Swp cennin a thatws (leek and potato soup)
1 lb. potatoes
2 oz butter
1 oz flour
3 pints chicken stock
1 c milk
3 sprigs parsley
Trim leeks, wash thoroughly and slice finely. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place leeks and potatoes with 1 oz butter in a large saucepan. Cover and heat gently 5 min. until the leeks are very lightly coloured. Shake the saucepan gently to prevent the vegetables burning. Pour on the stock and simmer 3/4 hour. Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the flour using a wooden spoon. Stir in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Simmer 2-3 min. on a gentle heat and add to soup. Stir well and bring back to a boil. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.
From: The Welsh dresser : more recipes from Wales / by Sian Llewellyn. Cardiff : Emeralda, c1986.
Cawl Aberaeron (Aberayron broth)
1.5 lb. bacon
1 lb beef
1 white cabbage
1/2 lb. carrots
1/2 lb turnips
1/2 lb parsnips
1 lb potatoes
2 small leeks
Wash and shred the cabbage. peel and cut up all the other vegetables. Dice the bacon and beef. Place the meat and all the vegetables except the leeks in a large saucepan; cover with water and season to taste. Simmer 2-2.5 hr. Add the leeks and continue heating for a further 10 min. Serve hot.
From: The Welsh kitchen : recipes from Wales / by Sian Llewellyn. Cardiff : Emeralda, 1972.
Chicken braised with leeks and figs
1 T butter
3 c coarsely chopped leek (ca. 4-5)
2 T flour
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
4 chicken drumsticks, skinned (4 oz ea.)
4 chicken thighs, skinned (4 oz ea.)
2 c dry white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
6 parsley sprigs
1 sprig thyme
16 medium light-skinned fresh figs, halved (ca. 1.5 lb)
1 T chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
thmye sprigs, for garnish
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over med-high. Add leeks; saute 5 min or until tender. Remove leeks from pan and set aside. Combine flour, salt, pepper, chicken in a plastic bag and shake to coat. Place chicken in the skillet and brown on all sides, ca. 10 min. Return leeks to pan and add wine, vinegar, honey, parsley, thyme. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 15 min. Add figs and simmer another 10 min. or until chickien is done. Remove parsley and thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with parsley and thyme garnish if desired.
From: Cooking light, Aug. 2004.