ARTICLE

Baba ghanoush

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Eggplant does not play a part in my life. I do not understand eggplant. I hate the smell of it cooking. The texture is dodgy too. 'Let's have an eggplant curry, Duncan!' my friends cry. 'No! Anything but that!' pleads your mild-mannered writer.

But there is an exception. I can eat cupfuls of baba ghanoush. That's right. A slimy mush of eggplant, garlic, lemon and tahini is my idea of heaven. As with many outstandingly tasty dishes (and far too many unequivocally foul ones), baba ganoush is a dip with a million recipes, each someone's absolute favourite. Mine is adapted from Claudia Roden's A New Book of Middle Eastern Food (1986, Penguin).

For one large eggplant (or about three slender Lebanese ones), you need one modest clove of garlic, 3/4 tsp salt, the juice of one large lemon, and 60 ml of tahini. None of these amounts are law — vary at will. This amount is sufficient for a romantic night for two of garlic-breathing bliss.

Notes:

  • Tahini is a pure paste of toasted sesame seeds. It is pale and creamy. There is apparently also a coarse variety which shouldn't be used here. Tahini is also called tahina, tahineh, tahin and just about any other vowel substitution you care to try.
  • Baba ghanoush (also baba ghanooj and other variant spellings) differs from the Greek dip melitzanosalata in that the latter is roasted, rather than grilled, and doesn't have tahini added. It is usually milder and a little wetter than baba ghanoush, but also delicious.
  1. Grill the eggplant under/over high heat until black and wrinkly. You can cut them in half if necessary, but cover the cut side with foil to reduce moisture loss. I don't recommend just roasting them in the oven, as the smoky flavour doesn't develop and the dip is then dull.
  2. When the eggplant flesh is mostly soft, remove from the heat and scoop the flesh into a sieve over a bowl. The flesh is often stringy, especially if slightly undercooked. It doesn't matter (except aesthetically).
  3. eggplantflesh1.JPG

    Is it a monster from the deep?

     

  4. Squeeze the eggplant flesh to release some of the juice. I don't think this makes much difference to the final flavour with our contemporary, fairly unbitter eggplants, but less moisture gives a nicer texture in my opinion.
  5. Put the eggplant in a medium bowl. Mash (as coarsely/finely as you wish).
  6. Crush the garlic with the salt.
  7. Add garlic, salt and lemon juice to the eggplant and mix well.
  8. Add the tahini and mix well.
  9. Taste and adjust as necessary. If in doubt, allow to sit for a while before tasting again.
  • If you prefer, you can puree the whole mixture, giving a wonderfully creamy paste.
  • Serve with fresh Duncan's sourdough or a nice toasted bread or flatbread.
  • Store baba ghanoush in the refrigerator for up to five days. Do not leave it to stand at room temperature and then rechill it multiple times!

 

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Does my breath look bad in this?

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COMMENTS

10 responses to “Baba ghanoush”

  1. grocer

    Dunacn,
    by now you know I love you regardless… So you WILL read what I say in the right way…

    Firstly, eggplant is in the same category as avocado for me. When I first tried it, I hated it. I thought it was mushy and flavourless whilst simultaneously being repugnant!!!

    I now love both.. I have no idea which came first, but I do know that there are a few sneaky tricks.

    1. NEVER heat avocado – it is SO SO SO SO SO WRONG!!!!
    2. If you're not sure about cooking eggplant, cover it in salt for at least 1/2 hour before cooking; eggplant is acidic and if you're not quite into it; this will make a difference despite Bill Granger saying he doesn't think it makes a difference.
    3. You don't have to like eggplant. If you hate it, that's fine.
    4. If you seriously want to give eggplant a shot, you must serve it with pyjamas, or worst case, as part of the group menu, finishing iwth "local specialties" is suicide; a bit like some of our macaron conversations.

    Good Luck Duncan, I admire your hope and determination!!!

  2. neil

    I'm thinking eggplant does play a part in your life, especially given that you eat a derivative of it by the cupful! I kind of understand where you are coming from with the texture thing, I can't abide great big chunks of it, but if chopped small and melted into a ratatouille, or sliced thin and barbecued, I can certainly think of worse things to eat.

  3. Y

    Can't understand all this anti-eggplant sentiment and have therefore concluded that you're all nuts. :P

  4. harry

    Well, well, well… who'd've known there were so many defenders of the aubergine!

    Anyway, I think your descriptions (black and wrinkly; a monster from the deep…) are spot on!

    One question: is your last remark about not rechilling it multiple times a matter of food hygiene or is it just because it won't taste any good?

    Otherwise, seems quite straight forward. All you seem to need is "a small aubergine" :)

  5. Amelita (Squishy)

    I don't know, does you breath look bad in this? Baba ghanoush is one of my favs, eggplant use to scare me, like puff pastry does, but I got over it. Gotta love it in a nice bruchetta mix to!

  6. Amelita (Squishy)

    P.S. After reading the comments above just thought I would let you guys know, I make antipasto at work now on a regular basis at the restaurant. It seems that none of the chefs there recommend salting eggplant. They say it's a waste of time.

    I was always a person who salted her eggplant and now I don't, so, who knows, salt, no salt, who can tell the difference really? Maybe we should do a blind taste testing?

  7. stickyfingers

    On the subject of salting eggplants, it is not necessary with all kinds of eggplant. Many breeds sold commercially today have been developed in such a way that they have managed to eliminate the bitterness. If you are using heritage eggplants then brining(salting) is recommended or nuking them in microwave, which will cause the bitter brine to leach or to be neutralised.

    I love eggplant. I love it crusted in polenta sandwiching buffalo mozzarella, a little sugo and basil leaves then shallow fried. I love Ma Po Tofu which features it and most Thai curry pastes require it to cause the right chemical reaction for the tastiest meals.

  8. Ran

    Thats funny, i posted a recipe for this earlier this week. I use my mum and aunts recipe (they are from jerusalem) and they always roasted it so maybe the grilling thing is a different arabic countries trick.

    I love the addition of parsley too. It adds another little kick. And for some reason we always spinkle a little paprika and oil over the top. its all good though. yummmm

    i dont get the anti-eggplant thing. i could live off it!

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