It is a known fact that the majority of cooks were difficult eaters as children.*** Here is a list of things that caused me distress along the way:
Meat that touched the vegetables on the plate
Meat that looked like meat (wasn’t minced up)
Fish which had a head on it
Fish which did not have a head on it but I knew it once had a head
Honey (still can’t eat it alone)
Vegetables that were cooked beyond a certain point
Figs. Fresh Ones. (I realise now I missed out on decades of God’s Own Food)
Frankly I don’t know why my mum didn’t swap me for some unfortunate Aussie classmate, one of many who ate pretty much the same boiled or fried plate of blandness every night of the week. I came good but she had to play the long game. I won’t tell you when I took up with Babaghanoush but it was late in life, long after I’d said yes to many other things. On that note it’s time for food. There is really only one way to get the aubergines ready and that is to whack them on the gas hob. If you don’t have a gas hob, you need a barbecue. If you don’t have that, then I suggest you get yourself and your aubergines over to a friend’s house. Electricity is a wonderful invention however it does not do the business here. You need that smoky flavour or you do not have a product.
Put them on the hob and stand calmly at the stove, turning them. I would love to give you a time but it varies with the aubergine. Try ten minutes for an average sized one. The skin will blister and start to burst (no, it won’t explode, don’t worry) and it will go soft. Make sure the fat bottom of the vegetable is cooked: you might have to hold it from the top and twirl it a bit.
So you have your aubergine and you need to let them rest for a couple of minutes during which time the skin will shrivel. While you are waiting you can artfully arrange some toasted almonds and a bunch of herbs nearby. Just for fun.
Peel your aubergine. It should almost do this for you. Take out as much as you can. You might have to use a spoon to get it out of the fat bottom bit.
Put it into a bowl. It should look like this.
Mash it with a potato masher. Do not be tempted to use a food processor: the whole thing will turn to mush. What you want is texture. Squash two medium garlic cloves for each aubergine, add the juice of a large lemon and a healthy amount of salt. As with all Middle Eastern food you cannot hold back on the salt and hope it will taste good. It won’t. Now the tahini.
Don’t overdo this. It’s just a flavouring in the same way the lemon is. It’s not an equal ingredient. So try about 1 large Tablespoon per aubergine. Mix it all in and adjust to taste. Try not to refrigerate (same as Hummus) if you are planning to serve that day or you will destroy it. This food is best at room temperature.
And look. Here is the finished plate. Some paprika on top is fine and adds some extra bite. But for a special occasion I like a little pomegranate with mint. Just before serving you can drizzle olive oil rather liberally into it. Yum.
***Scientifically correct but do you really want me to waste space proving it