From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Moutabal or Baba Ghanouj

Baba ghanoujNow — the naming of dishes in the Middle East, let alone their provenance, always seems likely to set up a new and deadlier conflict than any seen there so far.

For the Lebanese, this aubergine-based dish is Moutabal.  But it is perhaps better known as Baba Ghanouj.

I’m not a big fan of aubergine, so in this one case at least, I am not ready to die in the trenches for its identity as a Lebanese dish.  I’m with Ottolenghi on this — that the roots of these dishes are so criss-crossed through mountains, deserts and time, that it is better to accept the tangle as a positive, life-affirming thing than a nationalist fight just waiting to kick off.

Anyway, the thing I love about Moutabal isn’t the aubergine but the pomegranate seeds I add as a garnish on top.  Any excuse to have them — one of the great delights of Lebanese food.  I even tried to grow a pomegranate bush in London.  It didn’t quite work — at least not yet — but I haven’t given up.

This is my recipe for the dish — one of THE dishes that make the Lebanese mezze such a shot of delightful freshness and tartness — that you wonder why you ever have anything else.  ( Except when you are in Lebanon and there pretty much isn’t anything else, day after day…)

Moutabal Ingredients

2 Large aubergines washed

1 Small garlic clove crushed

6 Large spoons of tahini

3 Large spoons of greek yogurt

1/ 2 Tea spoon of salt

1 Lemon juiced

1 Large spoon of olive oil 

1 Sprig of fresh mint for garnish

1 Large spoon of pomegranate seeds for garnish

Lebanese Mezze.jpg www.samaracuisine.co.uk

Prick the fresh aubergine with a knife and put it on a baking tray under the grill.

Grill each side between 10 to 20  minutes or until the skin is burnt.

When it is ready, cut the skin open with a knife and scoop the flesh out with a spoon into a large bowl.

Don’t worry if you have a few black bits stuck to the white flesh.

Add the garlic, tahini and yogurt to the mixture. Mash the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.

Add salt and lemon juice and mix well.

Drizzle olive oil on top and garnish with pomegranate and mint.

Leave it in the fridge to chill.  Best served with warm pitta bread.Baba Ghanouj bowl 3

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