Aubergine (eggplant), beef & tomato ragu

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My children eat pasta about three times a week. It’s more than I would like, but they request it, often. Mostly they like to eat it with a tomato based sauce and cheese (usually Cypriot anari, halloumi or parmesan if we run out). As a veggie lover I’m happy my boys never ask for creamy white sauces. Most of the time I add vegetables they wouldn’t normally like to eat on it’s own to the sauce, like aubergine (also known as eggplant or brinjal). It’s not that I’m trying to trick them, but more about making sure they eat a variety of vegetables and colours as it’s so easy to fall into a routine of feeding them the same food. Aubergines are coming into season right now, so are tomatoes and will stay that way for a few more months. Now is the time to pull out all your favourite aubergine and tomato vegetable recipes and even freeze some for later if you are batch cooking.

Part of the nightshade family of vegetables (as are tomatoes), aubergines have a lovely purple skin which is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are found in all purple fruits and vegetables such as red / black grapes and blueberries. Adding antioxidants into your diet limits the damage of oxidation, helps promote good health and slows the development of age-related diseases. Although you can find aubergines in other colours as well, choose one which is firm, smooth and shiny. Smaller aubergines are sweeter and have a thinner skin. Avoid larger ones which are more bitter with a tougher skin. To get the most benefits from this vegetable, cook it with it’s skin on.

Aubergines pair well with tomatoes and herbs and can be grilled, roasted or stewed. To remove the bitterness from large aubergines, simply slice or chop the vegetable before you start the recipe. Sprinkle salt on the flesh and leave it for about half an hour. Rinse the salt off and pat dry. The recipe below is a variation of the more traditional beef bolognese, with added vegetables which are finely chopped or grated and ideal for fussy eaters as the aubergine melts into the sauce . You can serve this with pasta, zoodles or any other vegetable. It also makes for a delicious toasted sandwich the next day - with or without the cheese.

AUBERGINE (EGGPLANT), BEEF & TOMATO RAGU

Serves 4

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g organic beef mince

4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

1 medium aubergine, finely diced

4-5 medium ripe tomatoes, grated

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 cup water

handful fresh basil, roughly torn or chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Sauté the beef in olive oil until browned, add the garlic and aubergines and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened.

  2. Add the tomato, tomato paste, water and seasoning.

  3. Simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on, until the liquid thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves.

Note: this recipe can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.