The array of traditional Jordanian mezze offerings is too wide to include a recipe for each, so I’ve decided to concentrate on only my very favourite. While, in the West, ‘baba ganoush’ usually refers to a blended smoky paste of aubergines, I’ve found that in the Middle East, this name refers to an almost salad-like dish of grilled aubergines flavoured with freshly chopped vegetables, herbs, and pomegranate molasses instead. The blended smoky paste on the other hand, also commonly available, is called 'mutabal.' I have no idea from where this confusion specially arose, but am very clear on which of these two different dishes I prefer…
The only remaining difference to resolve then, is whether you choose to grill your aubergines, or cook these directly over a gas flame. There are some who swear that flavour will only ever be right over a flame, but as the current (unhappy) owner of an electric cooktop, I have been unable to put this definitively to the test. What I will say though is, speaking as a person qualified by having consumed ridiculous quantities of baba ganoush, the version below did not seem to suffer at all from relying on aubergines blackened under a grill.
- 2kg (approx. 5) large aubergines (eggplant)
- 1 shallot – finely chopped
- 1 small green pepper (capsicum) – finely chopped
- 125g cherry tomatoes – finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
- 6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon – juice only
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Small handful of walnuts – shelled & chopped
- Small bunch of parsley – finely chopped
- Small bunch of mint – finely chopped
- Handful of pomegranate seeds – to garnish
Lightly score the aubergines using the point of a sharp knife and place under a hot grill, or over a gas flame until blackened. Turn the aubergines while roasting using a pair of metal tongs to ensure they cook on all sides. Under the grill the aubergines should have blackened and become soft after approximately 1 hour, over a flame it will only take 15-20 mins.
When cooked, remove the aubergines to a bowl, cover, and set aside until cool enough to handle.
When cool, peel the charred skin from the aubergines using your hands. Next, proceed to tear the flesh of the peeled aubergines into lengthways strips. Discard any larger clumps of seeds that you come across in the process, but don’t be too concerned to pick out every single seed, it’s not a problem if some of these make it into the finished dish.
Now, place the strips of aubergine in a sieve positioned over a large bowl and leave to drain at room temperature for at least one hour (or more if possible). The more water that is allowed to drain from the aubergine now, the more flavoursome it will be later.
Once the aubergine has drained, place in a clean bowl and add the finely chopped shallot, green pepper, and cherry tomatoes, along with the pomegranate molasses and extra virgin olive oil. Exactly how much olive oil you wish to add is a matter of taste, but do add enough such that the dip obtains a loose-ish texture. Now is also the time to season using a fairly generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Mash a little with the back of a fork as you mix to combine the ingredients, and then set aside at room temperature once again for another hour to allow the flavours to develop.
To finish the baba ganoush, add the juice of one lemon, and stir this through, before spooning the dip into a serving bowl.
Using the back of a spoon, swirl to create a hollow in the centre of the dip. Scatter the finely chopped mint and parsley, along with the chopped walnuts around the edge of this and place some pomegranate seeds into the centre. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the pomegranate and serve with warm pita bread.