Eggplant with pesto

The eggplant might be the most gorgeous looking of the summer vegetables, a true aristocrat of the garden. But surely it’s the most underrated when, like The Phantom, it leaves the bush and walks the kitchen like the rest of the garden world.

When is the last time you got a call from an overheated mate desperate to pass on his or her latest discovery with an eggplant? Yet the phones and faxes run hot on the subject of tomatoes, the eggplant’s cousin. Always have, always will. Tomato sauce, tomato coulis, tomato vinaigrette, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, tomato salad. It’s enough for any vegetable to get something of an inferiority complex, or at least avoid the school dance.

Eggplant seems to be considered not much more than a component of ratatouille, and the basis for baba ghanouj, ghanoush, ganoush, ganouj, or any other gan- you’re happy with. You can’t eat it raw, can you? You’re supposed to salt it, aren’t you? Does it really taste like an egg? In fact, it got the name eggplant in the very old days when the drooping vegetable was actually white, before good breeding gave it the aristocratic purple hue.

The microwave changed the eggplant for me. Suddenly, with rapid cooking, that delicious yet subtle flavour was available with no effort, no fuss, no washing up. Somehow the microwave is able to keep this vegetable moist, keep it green (inside), and hold on to all its subtle flavours from the skin through to the seeds.

Soon enough the eggplant was in everything. In salads, in pasta, in dips, the only vegetable on the plate, the first dance on the floor. It also shares something of the quality of rice in that it is able to draw in so many other flavours, both rich and strong, yet is still able to retain a flavour of its own.

Pesto is best made yourself from the basil of autumn. Note here another story of things growing together, going together. When your eggplant is perfect, so is the basil.

The eggplant has had a bum rap for too long. Toss it in the microwave and start experimenting. You’d be amazed how many dishes are enhanced by this vegetable.

My Pesto

5 cups basil leaves

50 g pine nuts

1 teaspoon salt, preferably rock salt

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

1-3 cloves garlic

200 g parmesan, grated

1 1/2 cups best quality olive oil


Pop all the ingredients in the whizzer, but reserve half the oil. Puree, adding the rest of the oil in a stream. It’s done when it all comes together. Don’t over-puree. The chunkier the better.

Eggplant with pesto

1 eggplant

1/2 cup pesto


Bake the eggplant in the microwave until just tender. A 300 g eggplant takes 10 minutes on high.


Allow to cool, and then slice in half lengthways. The vegetable will be quite deflated and looking a little sad.


Cover each slice with a thick layer of pesto and bake in the oven at 170°C for 10 minutes, until the combination is warmed through. Serve just like that, with a spoon.