Baba Ghanoush may well be one of my last meal requests. I love nothing more than sitting with friends at my favourite Lebanese restaurant, subtly and politely fighting over bread and baba. I am silently competitively greedy and if I see that someone has had more baba than me, I make it as a life goal to rectify the situation.
I'm sure we all know the delights of baba ghanoush (or baba ganoush as it's often spelled) from one of those little plastic bowls in the deli aisle of the supermarket. It ranges from OK to OMFG horrific. Sadly, few of us really really get to experience the utter delight of a homemade eggplant baba ghanoush! There is no comparison.
The smoky, creamy delights of a home made baba are like no other. This is the best baba ghanoush recipe I've come across, and it's mine! For years, I've tried (and failed) to come close to the wonderful baba ghanoush at my fave restaurant. But over time, I'm happy to announce, I'm pretty much there!
A smoky, creamy zingy eggplant baba ghanoush salad!
The best eggplant baba ghanoush should have all three components. Creamy - check. Smoky - Check. Zingy - check. It's all about balance and getting the technique down. You're never going to make a good baba ghanoush if you're trying to throw it together. This baby needs some love and attention. Smoky AND creamy from the grilling, with a little zing hit from the yoghurt and lemon. It's freshness in a bowl.
In honesty, I've experienced (and cooked) some rancid baba ghanoush over the years. A lot of 'authentic' restaurant, for all their claims, just don't get it 100%! Out of whack in some way or another. Too smoky, too garlicky, to lemony. I suppose, it's a matter of taste, but if I don't think it tastes balanced - then quite frankly, it isn't. Getting the finely tuned levels right can seem daunting, but in reality once you've gotten it once, you'll know what you're doing, and how to create perfect baba ghanoush every time.
Perfecting the essential smokiness.
A good baba ghanoush should have a subtle smokiness. Enough to stand out, but not too much as to feel like eating an ash tray. The key to getting the essential smokiness is the initial cooking. I've found that grilling it on the BBQ gives me the best smoky taste - not too strong, not too weak. I use a gas burning grill (the coals made it a little too smoky). I've also had good results from the gas stove top, just resting and charring the eggplant on the flame, but the best results have been from the grill.
For success you need a dark char all over, while cooking the eggplant inside - it's no good burning the hell out of the skin on a nuclear heat, while the flesh is still raw and bitter on the inside - a high, steady heat will do the job. Creating a soft, fully cooked eggplant and a charred outer skin.
Remember: removing all the charred skin will stop the baba ghanoush tasting bitter and burnt, so when peeling it off, while trying to retain all your fingerprints on the scalding flesh, take care to get as much off as you can. Wear rubber gloves!
Blending a smooth and silky baba.
How do you like your baba ghanoush? Chunky and textured? Or smooth and silky? I think after all my years eating baba, I'm on the silky and smooth side of the fence. The flavour just seems to be more rounded and developed. It's a matter of personal taste, so it's really up to you if you want it rustic and chunky or refined and silky.
Baba Ghanoush - enjoyed all across the Middle East.
Baba Ghanoush is enjoyed all across the Middle East in some form or another, from Turkey, to Egypt, Syria to Israel - everyone claims to have invented it, everyone claims to have the best! My recipe style is a Lebanese Baba Ghanoush - they're arguably all the same, although I would never dare to say this out loud for fear of the ensuing arguments!
Whatever the style, the results are nothing short of a miracle. Those who claimed to not like eggplant have been converts after eating a good home made baba ghanoush. You'll be surprised how much more amazing it tastes. It's quite literally night and day.
Serving suggestions and other delicious Middle Eastern recipes
For me, I' never sit down with just a bowl of baba ghanoush. There is always an array of other Middle Eastern inspired salads to accompany. What is a Middle Eastern spread without a choice of meze magic?! If you're feeling like putting on a dinner table of like minded and perfect eating partners to this wonderful baba ghanoush, then give some of these dishes a try too. These suggestions will feed up to 10 greedy people!
This recipe is also one of my Best Dips in the Cook Eat World - go find out which others are on the list