Friday, 9 March 2012

Baba ghanoush - aubergine puree

Back to the beautiful aubergines, I find them irresistible. I grilled these on the hob, letting the smell of charred skin fill the kitchen. Once they were charred all over, I wrapped them in silver foil and let them sit, to cool. As they cool they continue to cook, and the skin loosens even more, and some fluid leaches out of them. You can see in the picture that there is still some steam coming out of these - I was in a hurry.

So, once the aubergines are cool enough to handle you rub off the charred skin. Then cradle the denuded aubergine and squeeze it gently, a slimy liquid will come out, keep squeezing, tenderly , but don't pulverize the flesh. Take off the stalk and set aside. Prepare all your aubergines like this - in the picture are three smallish aubergines. I cooked them and made them into baba ghanoush and ate it, so, no pictures.

Today I have one small aubergine, and so that's what I'm using for a step by step recipe. I make this aubergine puree for parties and for an easy meal, following Claudia Roden's recipe, from a Book of Middle Eastern Food, which is a culinary treasure trove. Here it is: 

This rich cream is a combination of two strong flavours: the smoky one of aubergines prepared as below, and the strong taste of tahina sharpened by lemon and garlic. It is exciting and vulgarly seductive. The ingredients are added almost entirely to taste, the harmony of flavours depending largely on the size and flavour of the aubergines used. The quantities below give a fairly large amount, enough to be served as a dip at a party.

Serves 8
·         3 large aubergines
·         2 cloves garlic, or to taste 
·         salt
·         ¼ pot tahina paste or less
·         3 lemons, or more to taste
·         ½ tsp ground cumin (optional)
·         2 tbs finely chopped parsley, a few black olives or a tomato, thinly sliced, to garnish

Cook the aubergines over charcoal or under a gas flame or electric grill until the skin blackens and blisters. Peel and wash the aubergines, and squeeze out as much of the bitter juice as possible. Crush the garlic cloves with salt. Mash the aubergines with a potato masher or a fork, then add the crushed garlic and little more salt, and pound to a smooth, creamy purée. Add the tahina paste and lemon juice alternately, beating well or blending for a few seconds between each addition. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice, garlic or tahina if you think it is necessary and, if you like, a little cumin. Pour the cream into a bowl or a few smaller serving dishes. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and black olives, or with Arab or other bread (pitta), as a salad or as a party dip.

If you can't be bothered to make it yourself, you can buy it in a tin!

Tahini makes a nice dip too, but here it is just an ingredient. I use just about a third as much tahini as aubergine.

charred and hot
wrapped in foil
cooled and ready to peel

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