Daily Archives: 21 February 2010

Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Aubergine Dip)

When friends come over for a drink, I like to serve a something to nibble on. It is a bit of a Continental habit from years spent abroad – this can be as simple as cheese or nuts, but if I’m feeling creative, this can range all the way up to savoury pastries or a selection of dips.

I had two large aubergines from the local Turkish shop looking somewhat forlorn in the kitchen and some friends on the way over, so baba ghanoush was the obvious answer! This is a smoked aubergine dip from the Middle East, which is both luxurious and easy to make.

HOW TO MAKE IT

• 2 aubergines
• 3 tablespoons tahini
• 1 tablespoon mild vinegar or lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon yoghurt
• salt, to taste
• olive oil, to drizzle
• pomegranate seeds (optional)

Pierce the skin of the aubergines all over with a sharp knife. Burn the outsides of each aubergine over a flame or under a very hot grill. We want the “burnt” flavour to get into the flesh, so don’t be scared of getting them good and black.

Once the outside is charred, put the aubergines in a hot oven for 25 minutes at 200 degrees. Once cooked, place in a plastic bag or a sealed container, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Next, cut the aubergines open, scoop the flesh into a bowl (leaving behind the skin!) and add the tahini, vinegar/lemon (according to preference), yoghurt and salt and mix well. Leave overnight in the fridge to thicken and allow the flavours to develop.

Serve at room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Accompany with toasted bread.

WOULD I MAKE IT AGAIN?

Yes. This is a breeze to make, provided you can be organised. The one niggle is that it really is best done the day before, but this is something I would happily make on a Friday and eat over the weekend. I’ve also done it same day, and it still tastes really good.

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Pancake Day

I always find Pancake Day very exciting, as this is the one day in the year that you can legitimately sit down and enjoy a whole dinner of sweet things. While the Americans enjoy maple syrup and butter and the French tuck into jam, we Brits are adding sugar and the most lip-puckering lemon juice you can find. In my opinion, lemon and sugar is the best combination for pancakes, and is definitely worth trying. If you don’t find the juice alone to be enough, try zesting your lemons first, and adding the zest too.

I also like that everywhere has their own take on Pancakes. Over the years, I have been luck enough to try the variations in the UK, France (crêpes, galettes de bretagne), the Netherlands (poffertjes) and the USA, but today I’m making Scotch pancackes. These are like the American pancakes, but not as fluffy and a lot smaller (go figure!). The benefit of small pancakes is that you can have lots of them, each with a different topping. Also, there is no standing time (as for crêpes) so they are a doddle to make first thing in the morning for hungry houseguests.

To make the pancakes:

• 115g plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 25g butter
• 1 egg
• 150ml milk

Mix the flour, baking powder and cream of tartar in a bowl, and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Next, beat in the egg and enough milk until the mixture resembles double cream (i.e. it should flow a little bit, but it should not be runny).

Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat, and once hot,  turn down to a medium heat and leave for a minute (*). Once the pan is ready, put spoonfuls of the mix in the pan (I put three in a large frying pan). Bubbles will form on the top. Once the burst (but the top of the pancake is still “wet”) turn the pancakes over and cook for a moment until they are also golden.

Enjoy with whatever you want. The Scottish way is to use butter and honey, but let your imagination run wild. And don’t forget the sugar and lemon.

(*) It is a myth that the first pancake never works. Follow this technique, and your first pancake will turn out just fine.

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