The American name, eggplant, well describes the way Turks regard this vegetable: mother of vegetables, the fons et origo of all good cooking. Treat aubergines firmly: you have to impose on them a bit, otherwise they consume oil and can even taste bitter. Stuffed, sliced, mashed, stewed, fried: the cooks at Topkapi Palace devised many ways of cooking aubergines. They had more varieties to play with than the solemn, shiny purple sort we’re used to. In Turkey, aubergines range from near black to pale lilac, and from zeppelin to baseball bat. Use a peeler or a very sharp knife to take strips off the skin lengthways all round the aubergine, like a striped humbug, and soak sliced aubergines in cold salty water for half an hour, and squeeze out the water afterwards.
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