Baba ghanoush

Baba ghanoush

By
From
Arabesque
Photographer
William Meppem

This superb dip is found throughout the Middle East, Turkey and even Greece, and there are as many recipes as there are people making it! Local variations abound – with the addition of yoghurt, mint and cumin on top of the basic oil, lemon, garlic and tahini. It is really all about personal preference and a balance of flavours. The earthy tahini, sharp lemon or pungent garlic should not dominate, but all should meld into one rich, creamy, smoky whole, which is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. One thing which we are adamant about, though, is that the eggplants simply must be roasted over a direct flame. It is the direct heat contact (which could also be got from roasting in the white hot ashes of a bonfire) which chars and blackens the skin, and results in that exciting, mysterious smokiness. If you have a gas stove, then cook them directly on the top burners. A similar effect can be obtained on the coals of a barbecue. If you have an electric stove, then you will have to roast them in the oven, but it just won’t be the same. Serve as a dip with plenty of Arabic bread or as a deliciously different accompaniment to grilled or roast lamb.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 medium eggplants
1 large garlic clove, crushed with 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 lemons, juiced
3 tablespoons tahini
200g natural yoghurt
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prick the eggplants all over with a fork and then sit them directly on the naked flame of your stove burners. Set the flame to low-medium heat and cook for at least 10 minutes, constantly turning until the whole eggplant is blackened and blistered and has collapsed in on itself. Remove them from the flame and place them on a small cake rack in a sealed container or plastic bag (so juices can drain off). Allow the eggplants to cool for about 10 minutes.
  2. If you prefer a milder smoky flavour then you can char the eggplants on the flame for 5 minutes and then finish off the roasting in a preheated 180°C oven for about 10 minutes.
  3. When the eggplants are cool, gently peel away the skin from the flesh with a small sharp knife. Allow the skin to peel away naturally, and do not scrape the flesh directly off the skin, as it will have a burnt flavour. For this reason too, be careful not to allow any pieces of the skin itself into the mix. Sit pulp in a colander and allow to sit for 5–10 minutes to drain further.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the dish, mix the garlic with the yoghurt then mix into the eggplant pulp with the lemon juice and tahini.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine – the dip should be coarse, not smooth. Don’t be afraid to taste and adjust seasonings as it should taste sharp. Serve with a big splash of extra-virgin olive oil.
Tags:
Middle East
Middle Eastern
Arabic
Arabian
Arabesque
Greg
Lucy
Malouf
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