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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Put the eggplant in a medium bowl. Mash (as coarsely/finely as you wish).
- Crush the garlic with the salt.
- Add garlic, salt and lemon juice to the eggplant and mix well.
- Add the tahini and mix well.
- 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’ssourdough 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!
Does my breath look bad in this?