Baba ghanoush

Baba ghanoush

New Middle Eastern Food
4 as part of a mezze selection
Mark Roper

Versions of this superb dip are found throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, and local variations abound. The earthy tahini, sharp lemon or pungent garlic should not dominate, but all should meld into one rich, creamy, smoky whole, which is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

One thing which we are adamant about, though, is that the eggplants must be roasted over a direct flame. This direct heat chars and blackens the skin and results in that exciting, mysterious smokiness. If you have a gas stove, cook them directly on the top burners. A similar effect can be obtained on the coals of a barbecue or in the white-hot ashes of a bonfire. If you have an electric stove, you will have to roast them in the oven, but you won’t get the same result.


Quantity Ingredient
4 medium eggplants, about 1 kg
1 large garlic clove, crushed with 1/2 teaspoon salt
200g natural yoghurt
3 lemons, juiced
3 tablespoons tahini
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil and arabic flatbread, to serve


  1. Prick the eggplants all over with a fork then sit them directly on the naked flame of your stove burners. Set the flame to low–medium heat and cook for at least 10 minutes, constantly turning until the whole eggplant is blackened and blistered and has collapsed in on itself. Remove from the flame and place on a small cake rack in a sealed container or plastic bag (so juices can drain off). Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. For a milder smoky flavour, you can char the eggplants on the flame for 5 minutes and then finish off the roasting in a preheated 180°C oven for 10 minutes.
  2. When the eggplants are cool, gently peel away the skin from the flesh with a small sharp knife. Allow the skin to come away naturally, and do not scrape the flesh directly off the skin, as it will have a burnt flavour. For this reason too, be careful not to allow any pieces of the skin itself into the mixture.
  3. Sit the pulp in a colander and allow to stand for 5–10 minutes to drain further.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the dish, mix the garlic paste with the yoghurt then mix this into the eggplant pulp with the lemon juice and tahini.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine — the dip should be coarse, not smooth. Don’t be afraid to taste and adjust seasonings, as it should taste sharp. Serve with a big splash of extra-virgin olive oil as a dip with plenty of Arabic flatbread, or as a deliciously different accompaniment to grilled or roast lamb.
  6. As a nice variation, try making a Persian eggplant and walnut dip. Omit the tahini and garnish with 80 g roasted walnuts, roughly chopped, just before serving.
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