Rich, smoky, oily and pungently garlicky, baba ghanoush is a joy of a dish and for me it makes the best use of aubergines.
There are many versions of baba ghanoush but this is one I have been making for about 30 years. I can seriously eat it by the bucket load while watching television, but it is so good served at parties where people can just dip in with breadsticks or crunchy vegetables!
I also like baba ghanoush slathered over white fish before pan-frying or cooking in the oven.
I normally make baba ghanoush from late summer when my aubergines are ready to pick but they were selling them enticingly cheaply in a shop the other day and I could not pass up on the opportunity to use them.
Charring the vegetables: blow-torch, BBQ, grill or oven!
The charring of the aubergine – either with a blow-torch, on the BBQ, under a very hot grill or in a very hot oven – is essential in baba ghanoush in order to get that rich, smoky flavour.
You can also char garlic and small onions (in their skins) for a few minutes to add extra flavour but this is not essential.
Using a blow-torch, it took me about 15 minutes to fully blacken and then peel 3 aubergines: you need to torch them until the skin blisters fully and the aubergines start to collapse. It takes longer in a BBQ, grill or oven – just go until they blacken and collapse somewhat.
Note: the aubergines must be pricked well all over, otherwise they might explode!
In the picture I had blow-torched some frozen tomatoes for another dish: I have a freezer tray full of last autumn’s tomatoes which are great popped into a casserole and the like. Tomatoes are not a good addition to baba ghanoush in my very humble opinion (it takes away too much from the aubergine).
The charring can be done in advance and made into the baba ghanoush whenever you are ready.
Recipe: baba ghanoush
- 3 large aubergines, pricked all over
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- about 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds or use 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- small handful of fresh basil and a little fresh mint, roughly chopped
- crushed sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
- a few squirts of lemon juice
(1) Blow-torch, BBQ or grill the aubergines until black and collapsing, as descibed above. Leave them to cool a little and when cool enough to handle, peel off the aubergine skin and roughly chop the flesh. Roughly chop or crush the garlic.
NB: if you don’t have a BBQ or blow-torch, you can prick them and pop them in an oven set to its highest temperature for about 30 minutes.
(2) Gently fry the onions, cumin and seasoning in the oil for about 10-15 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the aubergines, the chopped garlic, a spritz of lemon juice and about half of the chopped mint and basil to the onions and fry gently for a further 5-10 minutes or so. The aroma will be sensational!
(3) Now either blitz the mixture in a food processor, trying to retain a few chunks, or crush lightly with a fork. Stir in another spritz of lemon juice, the remaining basil and the mint. Serve either warm or at room temperature.