I have been neglecting the blog recently. Too many things happening and too many deadlines but today I decided to prepare for you one of my favourite dips, the Iranian answer to baba ghannuge where grilled aubergines are mixed with caramelised onions and garlic and instead of tahini, kashk or dried buttermilk that provides both creaminess and tartness. A very interesting ingredients which you can buy in Persian shops either dried or already reconstituted in jars. I used the latter. And instead of drizzling the dip with olive oil, Persians use the much more luxurious saffron water as garnish together with a little of the caramelised onions and chopped walnuts which you can toast lightly to enhance their flavour.
The preparation is not too different from baba ghannuge except for the frying of the onion and garlic but the first thing you need to do is put a few saffron threads to infuse in water which you will use to both flavour the dip and garnish it.
While the aubergines are grilling, prepare the onion and garlic. There is a big question mark about whether you should ‘devein’ garlic which David Lebovitz has answered in a recent post and even though I agree with him, I was too lazy to fiddle with removing the shoots which had not actually sprouted out of the cloves, so, I felt safe from any bitterness!
When the aubergines are done, it is a good idea to put the flesh in a sieve to let any excess liquid drain off before mashing and adding them to the caramelised onions and garlic together with the kashk and some of the saffron water. And there you have it, in less than an hour you have a sumptuous dip that you can serve on its own as a light vegetarian meal or with other dishes as part of a mezze. Different from baba ghannuge but just as good and almost as quick!
3 medium aubergines, each weighing about 250 g
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint
pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons creamy kashk (from Persian stores) or sour cream although it is not a perfect substitute
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts
Prick the aubergines in several places (so that they don’t burst while grilling) and place under a hot grill as close as you can so that the skin chars and gives the aubergines a smoky flavour. Grill for about 15 minutes on each side until the aubergines soften completely. Remove from under the grill. Cut them in half and scoop the flesh out and place in a sieve to drain off the excess liquid.
Put the oil in a frying pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and fry until they soften then add the garlic and fry, stirring regularly until golden brown. Do not let the garlic brown too much or else it will turn bitter. Remove a tablespoon of the onuons for garnish before adding the dried mint and half the saffron water.
Mash the aubergines by hand – you want them to keep some texture – and add to the onions. Add the kashk (or the sour cream but I recommend you make the effort to find creamy kashk which has a long shelf life as the taste will not be so interesting using sour cream!) and salt to taste and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Transfer to a serving platter and make a groove inside the edge, raising the middle slightly. Arrange the reserved fried onion and garlic in the middle and pour the remaining saffron water in the groove. Scatter the walnuts over the raised edge and serve with pita, lavash or barbari bread.
Tagged : aubergines, baba ghannuge, cremy kashk, David Lebovitz, dips, dried buttermilk, kashk-e bademjan, saffron, saffron water, should you remove green shoot from garlic cloves, sour cream, the most expensive spice in the world 2