Even though the evenings are still pretty chilly in the snowy mountains, we’ve been seriously getting into our barbequing. There’s something so wonderful about cooking outdoors over an open flame with a glass of wine or two. I just love the smokey flavours, even if it means your clothes smell equally as smokey the next morning.
Needless to say we’ve been making a lot of babaganoush. I’m talking at least every weekend. Originally I was going to write this week about our barbequing exploits, but since last weeks post on getting enough vegetables, I’ve decided to talk eggplant instead. And share with you my latest favourite version of the famous Lebanese dish. Perfected with the help of my good mate Rico who was once in love with a Lebanese girl, so knows good babaganoush when he sees it.
7 Things You Should Know About Eggplant
1. eggplant are also known as aubergine
A much more fitting name for this gorgeous, glossy vegetable. Even though eggplant it the normal Australian term, I generally call my black beauties by their much prettier name. Indians call them brinjal. In Italy they are knon as melanzane which means crazy apple. The name eggplant is derrived from the egg-like shape of the most common varieties.
2. eggplant doesn’t need salting
Apparently modern varieties have the bitterness bred out of them so salting is no longer necessary to get rid of bitterness. I do remember reading an experiment where someone cooked salted and unsalted eggplant and the salted on took up slightly less oil and cooked more quickly than the unsalted. This was because the salting process had softened the eggplant, resulting in less oil takeup. I’ve also read that cooking them briefly in a microwave can achieve the same effect as salting. I rarely fry eggplant so don’t usually worry about either.
3. eggplant loves olive oil
Eggplant grilled without oil, is an entirely different beast to the same vegetable fried in olive oil. The grilled version never develops the wonderful silky texture that only olive oil can bring. So if you are going to cook eggplant, be generous with the olio.
4. eggplant dislike the fridge.
They’re a little like me in that they feel the cold. Best to keep them at room temperature like tomatoes.
5. eggplant loves the summer
While they are pretty much available year round, eggplant are in peak season from late spring to early autumn.
6. bigger isn’t necessarily better
Medium sized are usually best. Eggplant that are smooth, shiny and heavy for their size are most likely to be the freshest and have the least seeds. Like people, as eggplants get old they go all wrinkly.
7. eggplant shouldn’t be eaten raw
I’m not sure why you’d want to, but thought I’d throw this in just in case. They contain the toxin solamine which can cause gastro problems among other things.
I’ve written the recipe for indoors cooking over a gas flame, but feel free to char your eggplant over a wood fired barbeque for the ultimate experience.
The quantities below are just a guide. Every time I make baba, I tweak with a little more or less lemon and tahini so please feel free to do the same. You often see natural yoghurt in baba recipes, but since I started making it without, I’ve had much better results.
The other trick is to roughly chop the cooked eggplant, rather than pureeing in a food processor. The texture is so much more rustic and it saves on washing up. Win-win!
2 medium eggplant (aubergine)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed to a paste
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Char eggplant directly over a gas hob, turning occasionally until they are super soft and the skins are blackened.
2. Place in a bowl and allow to cool.
3. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the soft flesh and discard the blackened skin. It’s ok to leave a few bits of charry skin in for flavour.
4. Coarsley chop the flesh until it is like a chunky puree. Place in a clean bowl.
5. Stir in garlic, tahini, lemon. Taste and season. It may also need a little more tahini and/or lemon. Best served warm or at room temp.