x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Food Obsession: the key ingredient to baba ganoush

This roasted aubergine dish is easy to make, healthy and delicious: a true Levantine starter.

You really need pomegranate molasses – a thick, pomegranate syrup – to complete this dish.
You really need pomegranate molasses – a thick, pomegranate syrup – to complete this dish.

So incredibly easy to make yourself, and one of my favourite mezze appetisers, this dish of roasted aubergines is an excellent one to add to your repertoire. Learn how to make it; it's simple and nutritious.

Don't confuse baba ganoush with moutabal. Whereas moutabal, like hummus, is combined with the perfect amount of salt, lemon, tahina paste, olive oil and cumin (and sometimes yogurt), baba ganoush is all about allowing the smoky flavour of roasted aubergine to shine.

If you can, roast your aubergines on a coal fire to get that aromatic smokiness, but if that's not possible, roast them in the oven for at least 45 minutes, at the oven's highest setting; pierce them a few times with a fork first and, if you like, place a piece of coal wrapped in foil in there as well so some of that smoky taste is created. Let the aubergine sit for a while until it's cool enough to handle, slice it open and scoop out the roasted flesh.

You really need pomegranate molasses - a thick, pomegranate syrup - to complete this dish. You won't get the sweet and sour fruity flavour that distinguishes the dish otherwise. To make it: finely chop an onion, half each of a red and green bell pepper and if you are partial, a tomato and one bunch of parsley. Use a pestle and mortar to turn one garlic clove into a paste. Chop up a handful of walnuts.

In a bowl, get all that roasted aubergine ready; use a fork to mash it up so you don't have any big chunks. Add the red and green bell peppers, garlic and finely chopped onions, drizzle with a tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses, sprinkle with some salt and add however much olive oil you desire. Mix it all well and spread on a flat platter. Garnish the surface with the walnuts, which add a lovely crunch to the creamy aubergine, and also garnish with the tomatoes and parsley for added colour, with a bit of olive oil and a generous drizzle of the thick, dark pomegranate syrup. If you have fresh pomegranates, use those as garnish instead of the tomatoes, and you'll achieve complete authenticity with this Levantine appetiser.

All that's required? Warm pita bread to scoop up your mouthfuls.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae