Brinjal with a bite.
Brinjal with a bite.
Image: Supplied

Aubergine, eggplant or brinjal, this delicious and multifaceted vegetable really does not get the kudos it deserves.

Besides the naughty fondness for that sneaky emoji on WhatsApp, most people seem a little wary of the mighty and meaty brinjal in the kitchen.

We are all quite anxious about the brinjal prep. All the salting, letting the water drain overnight — and it all seems quite an arduous process. I decided to go off and learn from one of the masters of bringing flavour to all vegetables when I first took a stab at making brinjals. My friend is Greek and she is a really great cook. She made a sublime dish featuring brinjals and feta and garlic and my mind changed about this strange-looking vegetable. She then gifted me Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More — a recipe book dedicated to vegetables. I am grateful to have had plenty more opportunities to try my hand at brinjal prep.

My mother cooked a lot of vegetables when we were little. Greens a gogo, but she was a more adventurous baker than trying the full suite of vegetables around us. We had salad at every meal other than breakfast and all those of us who grew up in old school homes know the ever-present butternut, pumpkin, cabbage and spinach that was a little grittier than I liked. I was a child who ate mud unprovoked, but oddly enough I did not like to find remnants of the garden patch in my cooked spinach.

My dearest father is most adventurous when it comes to food. He will try most things once. When we moved to Joburg he’d take us on adventures to China Town to sample “the best” Tom Yum soup and other delights, and my younger sister and I would tuck into most dishes with gusto. I am sure an eggplant passed my lips then and this is perhaps why this dish was so nostalgic on many levels when I first tasted it.

Fritzy, my dear friend, is a man of flavour and finesse in the kitchen and he is a fan of the “aubs” (his nickname for aubergine) and boy can he cook it too! Which is rare, as most South Africans generally don’t eat a lot of brinjal. But my friend was telling me about a delicious eggplant stew that’s popular in his home country, Ghana.

A colleague turned friend Lydia introduced me to this brinjal dish. Imagine fried aubergine, honey, chilli, spring onion... yum! That combination really makes you think “this is exactly what my tummy was wishing for.” This dish is great warm, served on its own or as a side to fish or chicken.

Fear not, the prep is simple and this is a really easy brinjal recipe and it’s actually really impressive when served. Above all else it tastes so good. This dish makes eating your vegetables a real pleasure.


  • 3 Aubergines (more depending on numbers)
  • 1 red chilli finely sliced
  • ¼ cup of runny honey
  • 2 spring onions
  • ¼ cup of sunflower oil for batch frying
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of cumin 


  • Cut the aubergines into bite sized cubes — similar sizes to make for easier frying
  • Salt and pepper the aubergine and then squeeze a little in a towel to remove excess moisture
  • Sprinkle the pinch of cumin over them and mix to combine
  • Chop up the chilli and spring onion and set aside
  • Preheat the oil over medium to high heat in a large pan
  • When it is hot enough, batch fry the aubergine until browned on all sides — about 10 minutes in total
  • Set aside on paper towel to drain excess oil
  • Pour out the oil and wipe the pan down with paper towel
  • Pour in the honey and over low heat bring the honey to bubbling point, then remove from the heat
  • Take the fried aubergine and stir through the honey until it is all coated
  • Pour the honeyed aubergine into the serving dish and sprinkle a little Maldon salt and scatter the chilli and spring onion over it.

This dish is best served warm and often eaten standing on the way to the table.

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