Aubergine Dip (Arabic)

23 Sep

Aubergine caviar or baba ghanoush is a classic Arabic dip of roasted, mashed aubergine flesh seasoned with spices and lemon juice. Served with flat breads it is a lovely appetizer or makes a fine contribution to a meal of little dishes or meze (mezze).

Seasoned mashed aubergine flesh, is a divine way to eat aubergines. I first encountered Baba ghanoush in Edinburgh, when I used to visit a friend who had a lovely little deli on the corner of her road. They made their own baba ghanoush and I always bought a tub of it on my way to visit her. The secret to a good Aubergine Caviar is the quality of the aubergines so use only the freshest, best tasting aubergines.

Serves 6 approximately
basic recipe

  • 4 medium aubergines
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon (a little zest too if you like)
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

The aubergines need to be cooked first by baking in an oven or roasting over a charcoal flame. The charcoal will add more flavour but so long as the skin blackens a little in the oven the smoky flavour, that makes this dish so delightful, will come through. Prick the aubergines several times with a fork then cook until the flesh is soft.
Allow to cool then scrape the aubergine flesh into a bowl and discard the skin. Add the lemon juice seasoning, garlic and half the oil. Mash with a fork or use a blender to make a smooth puree, depending on the texture you like. Adjust seasoning and serve drizzled with the remaining oil. You can vary the seasoning and add your favourite herbs or spices, see the variations for ideas. My personal preference is to add lightly crushed green coriander seeds or mustard seeds, a little cumin and coriander leaf. The version pictured has yogurt, a little ground cumin seed and is dusted with powdered cayenne chilli, but you could also add grated onion, mint, parsley, or coriander. I never seem to make it the same way twice.

Variations from around the world
There are many versions of mashed or pureed aubergine flesh to be found around the world; from the southern Mediterranean, throughout the middle east and into India, so there must be something to it,
In Turkey thick sheep’s yogurt is sometimes added, about 5-6 tablespoons for this quantity of aubergine puree but use less oil.
In Armenia chopped coriander and onion might be added
In Morocco harrissa might be added
In Syria and Lebanon pomegranate molasses may be used instead of lemon as the souring agent
In Egypt and other parts of the middle east Tahini may be added
In Italy agresto and basil might be added
In IndiaBaingan Bartha is a cooked dish where the aubergine flesh is fried with spices and tomato and onions.

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