'Burning an aubergine is probably the most effective tool of the Jerusalemite cook, as it is of many other [cooks] throughout the region. The aubergine pulp can be used in many contexts ... but essentially it is in the department of salads and dips that it comes into its glorious own.'
One of my most favourite cookery shows, Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem on a Plate, screened recently on SBS ONE. My mouth was watering from beginning to end, and the moment the show was over, I dashed to my bookshelves and reached for my copy of Jerusalem, the book by Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. In bed that night, I thumbed through the tome from cover to cover, drooling over the food on its pages. I went to sleep dreaming about aubergines and pomegranates.
On my kitchen bench sat three plump aubergines, picked fresh from my kitchen garden earlier that day. I felt inspired to recreate a deconstructed baba ghaboush prepared by Ezra Kedem, esteemed chef and owner of Arcardia, said to be one of the finest restaurants in the city of Jerusalem. In the program, Ottolenghi said of chef Kedem: 'In the 90s when Israeli cuisine had turned its back on indigenous food and was looking to Europe for inspiration, he was one of the first to return to more traditional cooking. Both Arab and Jewish.' In reply Kedem said that many [others] were ashamed to take traditional foods and cook it in a restaurant. 'When I started,' he explained, 'I took lentils and they said "what is it, this belongs to the chickens". Sometimes I feel that tradition is a rude word in Hebrew, but I stick to tradition.'
As the two talked, chef Kedem prepared a deconstructed baba ghanoush. 'It's the same flavour [and ingredients] as my grandmother used to do. What I did different is how I arrange it on the plate.' Tasting the dish, Ottolenghi nodded and smiled, saying 'Wow! The best baba ghanoush, seriously, that I've ever had.'
With such a recommendation, and three home grown aubergines to work with, I simply had to make the dish for myself.
Despite searching through various cookbooks and online, I could not find a recipe for the dish, so I sent out a hopeful tweet: 'Hello Yotam, is there a recipe for that deconstructed baba ghanoush from Jerusalem on a Plate?' Within moments came the reply: 'Afraid not.' Hmmm. No drama. That was not going to dissuade me from creating my own deconstructed baba ghanoush.
Having made it now on many occasions, I can concur with Yotam Ottolenghi... it is the best baba ghaboush you will ever taste.
Deconstructed baba ghanoush, my own recipe and method...
The recipe and method which I am sharing with you here was inspired by Jerusalem on a Plate and Yotam Ottolenghi's visit to Arcardia with Ezra Kedem. Thank you chefs.
DECONSTRUCTED BABA GHANOUSH A LA LIZZY
1 medium sized aubergine/eggplant
1 teaspoon smoked garlic* or two cloves roasted garlic
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons tahini
4 ripe cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped, to garnish
1 teaspoon flat leafed parsley, chopped, to garnish
chunky bread or flat bread, to serve
First, roast the whole aubergine over a flame, turning with tongs, until the skin has blackened and the flesh is tender (see the images below). By doing this, the flesh takes on the most wonderful smoky flavour. Now, allow it to cool slightly. Hold the aubergine by the stalk and, with a sharp knife, carefully remove the burned skin, leaving the flesh intact.
Meanwhile, combine the smoked garlic or roasted garlic with the Greek yoghurt and stir until it is well combined. Set the mixture aside. Squeeze the juice and seeds from the cherry tomatoes into a small bowl and set it aside.
Place the 'naked' aubergine onto the serving plate and spread the flesh out into a fan shape, using a fork (see the image below). Now, spoon or using a piping bag and nozzle, pipe the garlic infused yoghurt around the outer edges of the 'aubergine fan'. See images below. Spoon the tahini in between, together with the tomato seeds and juice. Drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and then the lemon juice. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper. Garnish with the walnuts and parsley. Finally, stand the stalk to 'attention', as the showpiece of the plate. Serve immediately with the bread. This will serve one to two as an entree.
* I used smoked garlic produced by Stan Soroka at Eden Smoke House, however, you could use a clove or two of freshly roasted garlic instead.
Note: Recipe text and method, and the words and photographs in this post are © Liz Posmyk 2014 Good Things. All rights reserved. Please respect my work and ask my permission before re-blogging or sharing. Thank you.
Pipe the garlic-infused yoghurt around the outer edges of the 'aubergine fan'...
Spoon the tahini in between, together with the tomato seeds and juice...
Seriously, this is the BEST baba ghanoush...
Tell me dear readers, do you enjoy traditional foods that have been deconstructed? Is baba ghanoush on your list of favourites? And what about chefs Ottolenghi and Kedem. Have you eaten at their restaurants: Ottolenghi or Arcardia?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.