Whenever I plan a BBQ, aubergines are the first things I think of – it’s generally the only occasion when I will make baba ganoush. A really good baba ganoush requires aubergines that are cooked over a high heat for a long time, such that the skins are blackened almost to charcoal and the usually bulbous tubers have completely collapsed in on themselves. You could do this any time of year over a gas hob, on a griddle pan or under an oven grill, but this requires a well ventilated kitchen and the willingness to monitor a searing hot stove for a considerable amount of time. On a BBQ you can chuck a few aubergines on the grill the minute the coal flames have died, and leave them to char, turning them every 10 minutes or so.
This smokey baba ganoush is a bit of a labour of love, but in my view entirely worth it. The aubergines need to be the first thing that goes on the grill, as they will take 30–40 minutes to fully cook and then another 15–20 to steam and cool before you can remove the skins. However this is an ideal about of time to make some grilled flatbreads (the recipe for which will be coming in a blog very soon!), and also gives you the opportunity to prep salads or other BBQ items as the aubergines only require sporadic attention.
The mantra, which I have read many times over, for making baba ganoush is that when you think the aubergines are done, they are not done. The skins will blacken fairly quickly and you’ll think the aubergines are completely incinerated but keep going! At the point where the aubergines are starting to collapse, I generally have another moment of erroneously thinking they are done. If you prod them with tongs or a spatula there should be no resistance from the flesh. If there is; keep going! I find that it’s the top and tail that are the last to yield, and when these have relented then the aubergines should be transferred to a heat proof bowl and covered in clingfilm to cool. The steam this generates will make it much easier to remove the blackened skins, and they should be cool enough to handle after 15-20 minutes.
Once cool enough to handle, peel away the skins and put the flesh in a separate bowl. If it’s cooked thoroughly you should be able to roughly mash it with a fork and it will form a chunky paste (I don’t like mine to be too smooth). If the aubergines are slightly under-done the flesh may still be a little stringy and fiberous. It will still taste delicious but it will be much harder to mash and you may end up with tasty pile of aubergine rather than a dip.
Then it’s simply a case of adding a bit of extra flavour – some tahini, lemon, garlic and salt are the classics. I’ve kept these additions on the light side as the subtle smokiness of the aubergine can be easily over-powered by excessive amounts of hot garlic and zingy lemon juice, but you could always add a little more than the recipe specifies if you prefer a more punchy dip. I like to add a pinch of ground cumin to further enhance the sweet, smokey, earthy flavours of the dish, and if you think your baba ganoush is a little stiff, you could add a spoonful or two of the liquid that will have collected in the bowl that you steamed the aubergines in.
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley and/or pomegranate seeds make for an aesthetically pleasing garnish as well as adding a little freshness and crunch. Pile onto flatbreads, pittas, pitta chips, crackers, wraps, or whatever else you have to hand. It goes wonderfully with falafel, with Mediterranean salads, roasted vegetables or BBQ skewers of Mediterranean vegetables doused in olive oil, oregano and salt.
Smokey BBQ Baba Ganoush
A delectable middle-eastern dip made from BBQ-ed aubergines, tahini, lemon juice and garlic
Vegan, Gluten-free, Grain-free, Nut-free, Soya-free
- 2 large aubergines
- 1 heaped tbsp tahini
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ¼ tsp ground cumin (optional)
- ½ tsp flaky sea salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)
- Light the coals on your BBQ, or put a griddle pan on a high heat on your stove, or heat your grill to its highest temperature. Stab the aubergines 5–6 times with a sharp knife, about an inch into the flesh, to help release some of the steam as they cook.
- Once the flames on your BBQ have died down, put the aubergines on the grill rack and put the lid down. Check and turn them every 10 minutes so they cook evenly. If using a griddle pan or oven grill, you’ll need to turn the aubergines more frequently and monitor them for the whole time. Ensure your kitchen is well-ventilated. You can also cook the aubergines directly over the flame of a gas hob using tongs, but again, constant monitoring and good ventilation is key.
- The aubergines should be thoroughly cooked after 30–40 minutes. The skins will be blackened and the aubergines will be collapsing in on themselves. You should be able to prod them and feel no resistance from the flesh down the whole length of the aubergine. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl, cover with cling film and leave to cool for 15–20 minutes.
- Once the aubergines are cool enough to handle, strip off the blackened skins and put all of the flesh in a separate bowl. Mash roughly with a fork – I like to keep my dip quite chunky but you can mash for longer if you prefer a smoother result. Stir in a heaped tbsp of tahini, 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, half of the minced garlic, ½ tsp flaky sea salt and ¼ tsp ground cumin (if using). Taste and add the remaining lemon juice if you think it needs more zing, the rest of the garlic if you think it needs more flavour and heat, and a pinch more salt if necessary. Drizzle with a tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle over some chopped fresh parsley or pomegranate seeds if you wish. Eat straight away with toasted pitta or grilled flatbread.