Baba ghanouj, with its distinct smoky flavour and creamy texture, is up there with the best of Middle Eastern food in my book. Along with hummus it holds a certain nostalgia for me, forever being on the table alongside fresh saj and soujouk when we'd sit down to eat with family in Cyprus. We'd usually keep a tub of it on hand back at home in London, but up until recently I hadn't really tried making it myself.
This was in part due to the fact I didn't have a gas range at home, and also because the purist in me remains stubborn on charring the aubergines instead of the simpler (and cleaner) process of baking them, but once I moved into my flat last year, equipped with a gas range cooker, I couldn't resist trying it out.
There is a fair amount of debate concerning what makes the 'perfect' baba ghanouj, and writer Felicity Cloake tackles this quite well in her column for The Guardian. Like Felicity, I like researching and testing different takes on a recipe to get the perfect version, and among other resources I used her article as an aid in my quest for the ultimate creamy, smoky and garlicky dip.
Personally I like enough lemon to taste but not enough to make the flavour obviously citrusy, a hint of garlic (1 clove per every two aubergines), and the essential ingredient, tahini - although just a little otherwise you'll end up with something more akin to hummus. The below recipe is what I consider to be the perfect baba ghanouj, and now that I've found the right balance the only thing likely to change when I make it is whether I garnish it with chopped mint or not.
Don't let the process of charring it put you off, likewise if you don't have a gas hob don't let that deter you either as you can still make delicious baba ghanouj without this process. What I find is most important is creating the right balance of flavours according to your own personal taste - although I think you might quite like the recipe below nevertheless.
2 medium aubergines
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tahini paste
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt
Olive oil and pomegranate seeds to serve
- Burn the aubergines using a gas cooker. Sit the aubergines on top of a low-medium flame, turning often. Cook until they are practically caving in on themselves. If you don't have a gas hob, prick and bake the aubergines whole in an oven set to 180°c (160°c FAN) for 30-40 minutes.
- Leave the cooked aubergines to cool slightly before peeling away the skin. Place the flesh into a fine mesh sieve and leave to slowly drain for 20 minutes.
- After draining, break the flesh up gently with a fork - I like to keep mine quite chunky but you can mash it up as much or as little as you like.
- Stir in the minced garlic, tahini and salt. Add the lemon juice and taste - adjust with more tahini/lemon/salt as needed.
- Serve with olive oil and pomegranate seeds.