In need of lunchtime inspiration I spent a good five minutes mentally cataloguing the contents of the fridge. A rather tired aubergine and red pepper were loitering in the vegetable drawer, a tub of greek yogurt and the remains of a jar of tahini sat in a shelf. Add a bulb of garlic and a couple of lemons from the vegetable bowl that sits atop the fridge, and the ever present pittas in the freezer, and I had the makings of a fairly decent meze lunch. It was either that or something more complex and slow cooked – but I had neither the time nor the inclination to spend too long over the meal.
I love aubergines in all their forms, from the fat round vivid purple Italian ones to the tiny hard Thai pea-like versions. So many cuisines use them in so many ways, but no-one reveres them like the Turks. They cook them in all sorts of delectable ways, particularly roasting, emphasising their velvety, almost fatty texture and the wonderful smoked flavour. Baba ganoush is one of my absolute favourite Anatolian dishes – especially if you have one of the ubiquitous and pendulous purply-black ones that may not be quite as flavourful as other varieties.
The oven went on to 200oC and, once it was hot in went the dilapidated aubergine and the red pepper. Roasting is such a good way of using up tired vegetables – it breaks down the fibres, softens the flesh and caramelises all their sugars producing something quite transformed from the crisp, somewhat bitter original.
These quantities are enough for two, but are scalable
1 aubergine Greek yoghurt (approx 2-3 heaped dessert spoon full)
1 clove garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Roast Grill – or bbq for optimum taste – the aubergine until it is blackened and completely soft, turning once or twice. This takes about 20-30 minutes. Remove and let it cool down enough to handle. Peel it – I use a knife to penetrate the skin and then pull off long strips. Chop the flesh into a colander or sieve and mash with a fork so that any bitter juices run away.
Scrape the resultant mush into a bowl and add an equal quantity of greek yoghurt. Make sure you use the 10% fat strained yogurt for the best result. Crush and add the clove of garlic, squeeze the lemon over the top and add one tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix together using a fork until everything is combined, particularly the oil – which loosens the yogurt and somehow brings the whole lot of flavours together. Serve cold with very hot pittas. You can add/adjust the ingredients in the much the same way as hummus. Other additions could be a sprinkling of sumac, coriander, parsley, some dried oregano, mint, all are good.
Hummus was going so well (click here for the recipe) until it came to adding the tahini when, upon opening the jar, catastrophe. Only one spoonful left. Some desperate scouring of the store cupboard yielded a jar of peanut butter made only with peanuts, no hidden extras. So I chucked in a spoon of that. Interesting and not unpleasant, but it did almost overwhelm the dip – a decent stand in but not as good as pure sesame. Unless you like peanuts, in which case it would be an ideal peanut heavy version.
The red pepper was roasted alongside the aubergine. Turn until it was starting to blacken on all sides. Leave it until it’s cool enough to handle and then remove the stalk and core, scrape out the seeds and peel it. Slice into strips and cover with olive oil. They’ll last in the fridge for a week or so, as long as you keep the covered. Add a garlic clove to add a little more flavour over time.