If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’d be aware that I have a slight obsession with smoky, creamy baba ghanouj. It’s become a staple favourite for weeknight dinners, games nights, picnics and after work snacks. I’d almost go as far as saying that it’s replaced my hummus addiction, but… well, it hasn’t. Yet.
Baba ghanouj is a Levantine dish made from mashed aubergines mixed with olive oil, garlic, tahini and other seasonings. It’s eaten in various forms all over the Middle East as a starter, appetizer or side dish, occasionally topped with pomegranate molasses, mint, fruity olive oil or spiced tomatoes.
Though baba ghanouj is traditionally made with raw garlic, I recently tried it with roasted, sweet garlic cloves for a softer, more fragrant result. If you’re unaccustomed to eating raw garlic, I’d encourage you to try this method for a less in-your-face garlic sweetness: just splash a good amount of olive oil into a small pan, toss in some unpeeled garlic cloves and roast the lot on medium heat (180 degrees C/360 degrees f) for 15-20 minutes or until the cloves are softened and slightly golden. Squeeze the cloves from their skins before use (these roasted garlic cloves are also fantastic spread onto charred ciabatta with some sea salt, avocado slices and extra virgin olive oil. Yum).
Despite the charring process, baba ghanouj is relatively easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and each second is completely worth the investment.
Try it next time you intend to make hummus as a smoky, creamy and delicious alternative. You’ll be glad that you did.
Makes about 2 cups
- 2 medium aubergines (eggplant)
- 2 tbsp tahini
- juice and zest of half a lemon (equivalent to about 1 tbsp juice)
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed (roast prior to crushing for a milder garlic flavour)
- 1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if roasting your garlic cloves, use the oil from the roasting pan)
- 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
- to serve: extra virgin olive oil, za’atar, sumac or smoked paprika
Carefully grill the aubergines over an open gas flame, turning them with tongs until the skin is evenly blistered and the flesh is soft.
Refrigerate or soak in cold water for ten minutes to cool.
Peel the blackened skin from the aubergines and place them into a bowl or colander. Leave them to drain for 20-30 minutes.
When drained of fluid, chop coarsely and place into the bowl of a food processor.
Pound lemon zest, chilli flakes and cumin in a mortar and pestle, then add to the food processor bowl with the remaining ingredients. Process until well combined and creamy.
Taste and adjust flavours as required; you may wish to add extra tahini, lemon juice, chilli or salt.
Scoop the baba ghanouj into a serving bowl and make a small ‘well’ in the centre. Pour over some extra olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar, sumac or smoked paprika to serve.