Eggplant is a favourite in our house. With its fleshy, meaty texture and nutty flavour, it makes for a fabulous staple in vegetarian dishes. Commonly used throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, there is no shortage of creative ways to cook with this tasty nightshade.
My smokey eggplant dip is a cross between Middle Eastern babaghanoush and traditional Afghan banjan. Like all good Afghan dishes, the starting point is the onion, always the onion! If you've been following this blog for awhile, you'll know that the flavour always comes from onions that have been slowly cooking in coconut or olive oil on low heat for almost an hour, until they are completely translucent and break apart easily with a fork (but not caramelized). For this recipe, I do it on the BBQ in a heavy cast iron skillet, alongside a whole eggplant (washed, with stem removed).
Once the onions are cooked, add in roughly 4 tbsp of organic tomato paste (or more according to taste), 2 tsp of Himalayan pink salt (or to taste) and about 1/4 cup of water. Mix to make a nice thick sauce, and let the juices combine and boil away until the liquid has evaporated and the natural oils from within the tomatoes have released. While the sauce is cooking, remember to keep turning the eggplant around so it is well roasted on each side.
Once the eggplant has browned, the skin has wrinkled and nice charcoal grill marks appear, cut the eggplant in half and place flesh-side down into the skillet. Let cook for another few minutes, while slowly mixing with a fork. The fork will gently pull the flesh apart so that the dip is nice and chunky.
You are only limited by your creativity when dreaming up uses for this delicious dip! We eat it as it is, alongside other barbecued vegetables, or as a dip on freshly baked bread and raw vegetables, or even as a topping to rice.
One particularly delicious meal is to take lightly grilled ciabatta, drizzle it with a basil infused olive oil, spread on the smokey eggplant dip nice and thick, then top with cold Greek yoghurt. It is absolutely out of this world!
What's your favourite way to prepare eggplant? Please share with us in the comments below.