Baba Ghanoush (or Moutabel, depending on where you’re eating it) has to be one of the most delicious, moreish items to ever grace a mezze spread. But it’s also one of those dishes you order at a restaurant, thinking you’d never be able to recreate as tastily at home. I know – it’s taken me years to even attempt it, let alone realise the secret to making it (the secret being that it’s really, really simple).
Just one taste of this Lemon & Thyme Baba Ghanoush will transport you to warmer shores…
Where, as the sun releases its grip on the day, a sea breeze carries with it the buzzing of cicadas and the hot drift of charcoal fires. As you make your way down dusty paths and cobbled passageways towards the water, the perfume of jasmine fills your hair; but it’s those early evening fires that have your senses interested, wafting in every direction with the promise of lemon, thyme and garlic.
Which is precisely what this dip tastes of. The flavours of an Ionian dusk: simple, fresh ingredients at their delicious best. This Baba Ghanoush is:
- delicate with thyme; and
- rich with tahini.
In short, it is one of the nicest things you will ever taste. I don’t want to get your hopes up (I do), but you need to make this.
And what a fantastically simple way to transport yourself to a beautiful alternate reality without hopping on a plane!
So the secret? Fire! Ideally, real fire, on a charcoal grill, but do you know what? Leaving the aubergines to char, melt and almost dissolve under a conventional oven grill produces unbelievably similar results. The first time I tried this out, I couldn’t believe my taste buds. It was revelatory!
And even better, that is the only cooking you need to do to achieve the taste of heaven that is Baba Ghanoush. Once you’ve grilled the aubergines to smoky perfection this recipe couldn’t be simpler – just mash them up in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and serve.
The key to achieving the beautiful freshness that lifts the flavour out the smoky richness is to use an organic lemon, if you can. The difference in taste between organic and non-organic lemons (of those purchased in London, anyway) is remarkable! I really believe that for simple dishes like this one (particularly with raw, whole ingredients), where the individual flavours stand out, choosing organic can make a huge difference.
The same goes for my Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake: the delicate, floral notes really stand out to make it extra special.
Toast some flatbreads or pittas, slice some raw vegetables, pour a delicious glass of something cold and dive in. This works beautifully as a starter in its own right – in fairness, it should be the centre of attention – but true to its spirit this Baba Ghanoush is the perfect partner to hummus, kalamata olives, dolmades and fresh tomatoes.
This is one of those perfect recipes to have up your sleeve for any occasion, and here’s why:
- it’s incredibly simple to make, with only 2 steps;
- you only need 6 basic ingredients;
- it’s full of wonderful vitamins from the fresh lemon juice and raw garlic;
- tahini is a great source of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, and high in vitamin E;
- you’ll really, really impress anyone who is lucky enough to share it with you; and
- sometimes it’s nice to have an alternative to hummus (shh! don’t tell anyone I said that).
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I think I hear a bouzouki playing somewhere on the wind….
P.s. If you don’t have a grill but now have a hankering for melting, garlicky aubergines, take a look at my recipe for another Greek-inspired dish – it’s a weekly dinner favourite for us (and just as easy to make).
- 2 aubergines
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1 organic lemon
- 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- Pinch Himalayan pink salt
- Smoked paprika, to garnish (optional)
- Set the grill to a high heat and place the aubergines on a foil-lined tray.
- Grill the aubergines for 15 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure even cooking. They should take on a blackened appearance and be soft all the way through.
- Once cooked, leave the aubergines to cool for a little while before peeling.
- Using a fork, mash the aubergine pulp in a mixing bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients.
- Serve with a dusting of smoked paprika and toasted flat breads for a delicious mezze!