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 we 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 we moved into our 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.