When you grow aubergines the first year plants will start to give you fruit in June or July and then continue until about November or early December depending on the weather. You can take out the plants at this point and start again the next year, but with the frost free winters here I can leave mine in the ground. They will have a little rest for a month or two and then start to produce fruit again. The fruits tend to be smaller and paler than the summer fruit, but plentiful.
When there are more than I can eat fresh, I like to cook them in this spicy sauce and bottle them for serving as part of a mixed starter later. Escabeche is a method used a lot here in Spain for preserving usually fish. It is highly flavoured with garlic and smoked paprika, and then vinegar and white wine are used to aid the preserving process.
For a slightly more eastern mood to the escabeche for preserving aubergines I like to add some cumin seeds and use quite a hot piquant paprika.
500 grams small aubergines
1 head garlic
150 ml olive oil
150 ml white wine
150 ml white wine vinegar
15 ml cumin seeds
30 ml smoked paprika – picante
To cook the preserve you will need a large shallow thick based pan in which you can cook the aubergines in one layer.
Divide the head of garlic into cloves and peel each one. If some are very large slice them in half.
Wash the aubergines and remove the stalks. Cut the fruits in half from top to bottom.
Heat the oil in the pan and add the garlic.
Once the garlics start to sizzle turn them over and move them to the edges of the pan.
Add the aubergines cut side down and fry gently for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
Turn over and fry on the other side.
Add the cumin seeds and paprika, then the vinegar and wine. Shake the pan to mix the spices and liquid without disturbing the aubergine pieces.
Add enough water to just cover the aubergines and season with salt, half a teaspoon.
Cook covered for 5 minutes.
Gently turn over each of the aubergines, I use tongs for this, and continue cooking covered until the aubergines are cooked through but not mushy. This should take between 5 and 10 minutes.
Some of the liquid will by now have been absorbed by the aubergines and so will look reduced.
Put the aubergines while still hot in hot sterilised jars, seal them and cool.
Serve as either part of a mixed starter, with cheese or they are very good with lamb dishes.