In Paris variations of ‘caviar d’aubergine’ are becoming ubiquitous. Any kind of aubergine dip is pretty amazing so the more the merrier. Traveling around Lebanon and Jordan recently meant a lot of it was consumed so I figured it was time to start working out what all the different mezze were and how they could be made at home.  The cuisine of the Levant is a favourite of mine. Its nutty, spicy flavours along with an approach to eating that is truly Mediterranean being wonderfully family oriented lazy, lengthy grazing.

A middle eastern favourite dished up  in one way or another from Greece to Israel to Beirut, moutabal is most often served as one of many cold mezze. Commonly referred to as Baba ghanoush, in Syria and Jordan this is almost always called moutabal and baba ghanoush is an aubergine salad not the smoky creamy sesame infused dip that is moutabal. In most other middle eastern countries it’s baba ghanoush. Many menus will have both listed to add to the confusion. Baba ghanoush is actually a salad of roasted aubergine flesh with lemon juice , tomato, hot peppers, garlic and onion.

The key to the moutabal flavour is  chargrilling the aubergines until the skin is about to fall off – otherwise you miss the amazing smoky flavour characteristic of this staple mezze. Nonetheless even oven roasting the aubergines will get you a garlic spiked dip that’s a great alternative to cheese and crackers…


Ingredients

  • 2 medium/small aubergines
  • 1/2 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 250gr (2 small tubs) plain yogurt

Making

Roast the aubergines in tinfoil (prick them all over beforehand) for at least an hour until soft and mushy. Let them cool then take off as much of the skin as you can. While they’re cooling mix the tahini, yogurt and garlic together with the oil. Take the cooled aubergines and with the skins off mash the flesh up as best you can giving it a swirl with a hand mixer if necessary but no need to make it a puree. Mix in with you yogurt mix and add salt to taste.  Serve with warm flatbreads.

To make baba ghanoush, add one finely chopped tomato, hot green pepper and onion to the roasted aubergine flesh and stir in. Crush 2 garlic cloves with a teaspoon of salt and add to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 of lemon juice. Stir the liquid into the vegetables with a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint and garnish with parsley to serve.

(Cookbooks and references – ‘Modern Mezze’, Anissa Helou/’Classic Lebanese Cuisine’, Kamal Al-Faqih/’The Petra Kitchen’, Jordan)