Growing up I absolutely despised aubergine. I always remember an incident where my dad had made a gooey slimey aubergine dish – which looking back was probably rather pleasant – but the look of it put me off. I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I’d eaten it so we got into this horrible stalemate situation with me staring at this plate for what felt like hours. In reality it was probably less than an episode of Home and Away. But I lucked out by managing to smuggle it into my napkin, and later down the toilet. Looking back, I feel bad as my dad spent hours cooking for us, usually before or after epically long shifts in whatever restaurant he was working in, typically 6 or 7 days a week. Even more so now that aubergines are one of my favourite vegetables and the mere thought of their smokey tones make my mouth water.
It wasn’t really until a trip to India in 2012 that my obsession began. At Goan Corner in Hampi my friend ordered us the baijan dish and my tastebuds were changed. The texture, the smell, the taste – all of it melted in my mouth like nothing before. Luckily that was at the start of three months in India, so I ordered aubergine at almost every possibility.
Now, it’s one of my favoured foods in Middle Eastern meals and I incorporate it regularly into my cooking. Ottolenghi’s Plenty has a whole chapter dedicated to the beauties which has given me plenty of inspiration for experimentation.
This is a really easy recipe and you will not be disappointed with the results. With just five key ingredients it can be knocked up last-minute and makes a brilliant addition to any meal, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean or otherwise.
Charring the aubergine releases the mouth-watering smokiness – which is actually due to the aubergine containing nicotinoid alkaloids as a distant relation to tobacco – and also creates the soft pulpy texture.
Make sure you let the aubergine cool once charred (you can speed this up by running it under cold water) as it will allow you to peel it more easily. You can also use water to rinse off any little remain bits of skin.
I also recently experimented with prepping aubergine like this to use in a curry – usually I would just dice it – and it was incredible!
Feel free to add more garlic if you want a punchier hit (although this is already fairly high on the garlic scales).
The dip is perfect served with pitta, flatbread or vegetable crudités, or as an accompaniment to any dish.
- 1 aubergine
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Char the aubergine over a direct gas flame/hob if you have one. Do this by placing it directly on the flame and turning regularly with tongs, ensuring that all of it chars. It should begin to go brown/black and flaky. If you don’t have a gas flame/hob you can use a grill to chargrill it. It should be soft, floppy and smelly smokey.
Leave it to cool for 20 minutes in a colander. Once cooled peel the skin off then roughly chop the aubergine and transfer to a bowl. Combine with all the other ingredients and use a pestle (or masher) to mash them together.
Taste and season if required. Serve with pitta, flatbread, vegetable crudités or a range of sides.