Homage once again to the aubergine, but I love it. Baba ghanouj is also pronounced Baba ghanoush by some, though they must be following the Oxford English Dictionary, a much revered publication, but the spelling in Arabic (and lets face it, it isa Levantine dish), ends in the letter ‘jeem’, or if one is Egyptian, a ‘geem’, a hard ‘g’, (same letter i.e. a ‘ج’). It certainly is nowhere close to a ‘sh’ sound. The word mutabbalcomes into play here as well and the two terms are used interchangeably in much of the Arab world. Some Syrian sources claim that mutabbal is the mezze dish/dip as pictured above and that baba ghanouj is (roasted aubergine (eggplant to our North American friends) is the common factor here) with tomatoes, pomegranate molasses (dibs al-romane), walnuts and so on.
The last set of basic ingredients sound wonderful and need be cooked up and tasted. The ingredients cannot be faulted in any way and have been bookmarked for further study, the results will be a future recipe published here, gentle readers.
Having tackled the linguistic minefield head-on, today we are making the salad/mezze dish/dip as pictured above, and to quote Shakespeare as a metaphor; “A rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”, the above has great taste and coming up to the festive season when dips and the like might be needed. While the commercial supply is readily available, making at home ensures you have the taste exactly to your preference, it is super easy to make, apart from the roasting time (does anyone watch pint dry?), pretty quick to make and can be made a day in advance at least. It is not a cook and serve immediately recipe and as aforesaid, easy to fine tune to how you like the balance of flavours.
Take 1 medium aubergine (of course you can scale up depending on the occasion – dîner-à-deux or party piece) and place in a roasting tray in a medium, pre-heated oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Its good to turn the aubergine every 15 to 20 minutes so is baked evenly. Keep the stalk, as it is easier to handle complete. Once uniformly soft, remove from the oven and let it (or them, depending) cool a little and after 5 minutes or so, rub an ice cube on the skin and peel off the skin. The cold shock aids the peeling process. Note: This is about the only time I remove an aubergine skin. Here we are making a dip. Otherwise, I invariably leave the skin well and truly on.
Have reserved (during the baking process) 3 tablespoons of tahina (tahini)…. You say tomato; I say tomato… as the song goes… the juice of one lemon that is mixed/blended together. Drip feed the tahina/lemon and mix with water until you get a creamy consistency. The plain tahina is too stiff to work into a sauce/dip on its own. I say add the water little by little as you do NOT want a watery flood, but a medium creamy consistency. You can’t stand a spoon in it, but thinking as a dip, you can scoop it up.
In a food processer add the tahina/lemon/diluted mix with the aubergine pulp (having discarded the stalk along with the skin) with 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper with one teaspoon of cumin powder, a bunch of fresh basil and whizz. You can add 1 tablespoon of olive oil if you wish at this stage. Obviously, if you do so, it should be serious olive oil of high quality as it is a dressing and a vehicle, not a frying medium.
At this stage, when everything is blended, taste to see if you have the flavour balance to you liking and serve with a garnish of pomegranate seeds and/or shredded basil leaves and/or olive oil.
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