Whether you know it as mutabbal, moutabal, eggplant salad or baba ghanoush, the smoke-scented aubergine puree is a classic part of any mezze.
The principal ingredients are aubergines, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil. Scooped up with warm flatbread, this is perfect outdoor or picnic food.
Pierce the skins of 3 large aubergines with a fork then grill over hot coals or the flame of a gas hob till the skin has charred and the flesh is very soft. Scrape the flesh from the charred skin and whisk with 2 crushed cloves of garlic, the juice of a small lemon, 2 or 3 heaped tablespoons of tahini paste and 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a grinding of salt and pepper. Serve, its surface trickled with olive oil with warm flatbread.
Too many versions of this recipe fail to recognize the importance of scorching the aubergines over a grill or hot flame. This is essential to give the smoky quality that lends such a distinctive note to the dish.
I would say it is crucial to blacken the skins in order for your baba ganoush to have the correct flavour.
You can either cook your aubergines over a charcoal grill or bake them, but the skins must blacken.
Some recipes include tomato, but I find this complicates the flavour. Toasted cumin seed is worth adding (which I did), as is plenty of garlic. A good splash of pomegranate molasses over the surface as you serve is a twist that shouldn’t offend even the strictest purist. I sometimes serve the purée, scattered with pomegranate seeds, with grilled lamb cutlets, scooping up the aubergine dip with my lamb bones. It makes a gorgeous pasta sauce, in which case some basil leaves would be a suitable inclusion. Stirring chopped mint leaves in to the finished dip is not exactly adhering to tradition but tastes wonderful.