Baba Ghanouj

We took a picnic lunch on a boat cruise recently, including various carefully-made-by-my-own-hands dishes. The Baba Ghanouj, however, was not one of them. The difference between making it yourself and not, really is worth the trouble. This is my preferred method.

Ingredients from Greg Malouf, part of the incredible dynasty in Melbourne that has taken Lebanese cuisine to fanciful heights while never forgetting its roots.

2 large eggplants
1/2 clove garlic
Salt
3 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon – to taste, at any rate
200g yoghurt

I try to pick eggplants that aren’t too fat as you want to cook them right through. There is no point even thinking about making this dish unless you have gas hotplates – and gas hotplates you are willing to ruin. You may wish to try putting alfoil around the rings. I’ve never found that helps. A charcoal or wood bbq would also do. NOT one of those oven-outdoors-bbqs.

Get a long metal kebab skewer, one for each eggplant and, well, skewer the buggers. Adjust heat on the gas hotplates so that the flames are the right size for the eggplants. You are going to stand and guard these…turn and turn and turn. You want the flesh to collapse, so that the eggplants are all but falling off the skewers, the skin will be blistered and burnt.

Remove, put on a cake cooling wire and then in a plastic bag. You want to collect juices as it sweats which you will discard.

Take the eggplant out of the bag and take off the skin with a knife or fingers. A recipe might urge you that the least bit of charred skin will ruin the end dish, but I don’t think that is true.

Chop the eggplant rather than puree it, you want it to be a little ‘chunky’, not machine made smooth.

Now you can do one of two things:

(1) Add the other ingredients. Put in fridge until you are eating…

(2) Divide into portions. I like to use some of the eggplant for b.g. and use some for other things. Eg kheema – a fantastic way to flavour kheema. And I make it part of a spaghetti sauce. I imagine there are innumerable great things you could do with it.

On flavouring with garlic and lemon. The usual holds: you can add these things but you can’t subtract, so do it slowly, tasting along the way. You know that thing computer scientists do? They look like they are just having fun but they have their excuse all ready ‘compiling’. Well, you get to do that in the kitchen? Eating? Pigging out? No way. Just testing. I noticed a really lovely way of describing what garlic and lemon are to this dish at The Food Blog… as part of the ‘perfect’ baba ghanouj recipe, different from this one, by the way.

And the juice of half a lemon to give some fire
But remember that lemon juice is only there
To compliment the creaminess of the tahini affair
The taste of lemon juice should not be intrusive
Its existence must remain elusive
Crush a bit of garlic with a teaspoon of salt
Before you use too much, you really must halt
In the same way the lemon’s used discretely
The garlic’s existence should almost completely
Be hidden, it’s there just to balance the fruit
A heavy hand and garlic turns into a brute

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