If there’s one vegetable that deserves more recognition for its culinary prowess, it’s the aubergine, also known as eggplant in some regions. With its glossy purple skin and firm yet tender flesh, aubergine is a true delight to the taste buds and a beloved ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.
Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family and is native to the Indian subcontinent. It made its way across different continents centuries ago, captivating chefs and home cooks alike with its unique flavor and texture. This versatile vegetable comes in various shapes, sizes and colours (purple, white and green).
One of the aubergine’s most charming qualities is its ability to absorb flavors like a sponge. When cooked, it takes on rich, hearty flavors and becomes incredibly creamy, making it a star ingredient in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Its adaptability in absorbing spices and herbs makes it a key player in bringing diverse tastes to these dishes.
In Hungary padlizsánkrém or eggplant dip is a popular appetizer that has found a special place on Hungarian tables for generations. This creamy and aromatic dip is a wonderful showcase of the Hungarian affinity for combining simple, wholesome ingredients to create a symphony of flavors.
The two popular versions of eggplant dip in Hungary are either made with oil and lemon juice, or with mayonnaise, both of them contain onion and/ or garlic, and they are seasoned with salt and pepper. Eggplant dip is served with slices of fresh bread or crusty baguette.
Choose the right eggplants: Opt for ones with smooth, shiny skin and no soft spots or blemishes.
Store correctly: Keep eggplants in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Avoid refrigerating them for extended periods as the cold temperature can lead to accelerated spoilage.
- 2-3 eggplants (weight approx. 500-600 g / 1 1/4 lbs total)
- 1 small red onion
- 1 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 150 g (~5 1/3 oz) mayonnaise
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 392°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Prick the eggplants in several places using a toothpick. This helps steam escape while the eggplants roast.
Place the whole eggplants on the gas stove burners to char the skins. This step lightly chars the outsides of the eggplant, which adds a smoky flavor. Broil eggplants on all sides until the skin darkens and begins to smell smoky.
Transfer the roasted eggplants in the prepared baking pan (I prefer to cut them in half, but you can leave them whole), and cook them in the oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick can very easily pierce through the flesh. Cool them until easily handled.
While the eggplants cool, finely chop onion and garlic.
Scrape out the flesh and mash it by using a wooden spoon. Add minced garlic and onion, stir in mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Chill for a couple of hours before serving to let the flavours merge.
(Side note: Eggplants, like apples, are prone to browning when exposed to air. Some recommendations suggest avoiding the use of metal untensils because metals can react with the aubergine’s enzymes and cause further discoloration. That’s why it’s recommended to use wooden or plastic tools instead of metal ones. However, I have never experienced any discoloration when cutting eggplants with a metal knife.)