Hummus. Most of us have eaten it, have bought it, ready made; from the supermarket, slopped it into a pita, onto a piece of toast, a cracker, a crisp, whatever. And yet made from scratch, with your own hands, with love and attention it becomes something else altogether. And so it is with Baba Ganoush – or Mutabal, as it’s also called in the Levant – is one of the World’s great aubergine dips.
Like its chickpea cousin Baba Ganoush takes us on a merry dance with tahini, lemon and garlic but unlike hummus prefers the deep, complex flavours of smoky aubergine. And it’s the smokiness that’s key: charred, black, protean. For many modern cooks this presents a problem. How to char the eggplant? If you have gas just use the naked flame. Have a barbeque then use that. A naked flame of any sort will do the job. However, if you’re limited to an electric hob then try pricking and grilling them. It’s not ideal but then needs must. Remember like any dip this recipe is a guideline only. The amounts are a starting point. I often use more lemon and tahini than what’s written below.
2 large aubergines
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a little extra
2 tbsp tahini (at least – I love tahini and often use more)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped mint or flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
2 tbsp Olive oil (optional)
Blacken the aubergines over a gas hob or barbecue, turning regularly with tongs, until completely charred and collapsed. And be sure to go all the way. There are no half measures. You want them black, burnt, shrivelling. Allow them to cool.
Now, slit your aubergines lengthways and scoop out the flesh in long strands, discarding the skins. Put in a sieve and leave to drain for 30 minutes, or squeeze out if you’re in a hurry. Season them. Set aside.
In a bowl, stir the lemon juice into the tahini until it loosens up. Add the garlic and most of your chopped herbs. Season to taste. Add a squeeze more lemon juice if necessary.
Mash the aubergines gently with a fork and then stir into the tahini mixture. Top with the remaining herbs and pomegranate seeds if using. And that’s it. Delicious. Deep, flavoursome.