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.
If I could put my loft on a magic carpet, fly it to New York and land it somewhere in Chelsea within walking distance of Union Square, I would do so in a heartbeat. I love the city. It is actually my favourite! And I love Union Square Farmers market and wish we had something similar in London. It is not that we don’t have enough farmers market. We have plenty. But what they don’t offer is the tremendous variety that you find in Union Square. Take the top photo for instance: beautiful, graceful hands picking okra from a selection of red and green ones. As some of you know, I was brought up in Lebanon and Syria where okra is a common vegetable but I had never seen red okra before. Nor for that matter fat okra as pretty as those with the reddish tops in the picture below. It is not my favourite vegetable but if I lived in New York, it would certainly become one. At least at this time of the year.
I wonder how many of you will be partying tomorrow night. I for one will be having a quiet evening with my lovely friends in their house by the sea, snapping the sun as it sets and going to bed long before midnight. But for those of you who are in a party mood, here is a very unusual Saudi dip made with mulukhiyah (the leaves of the Corchorus species that are commonly known as jew’s mallow) for you to share with your family and/or friends. It takes longer to prepare than a simple dip like hommus or baba ghannuge but it is also a lot more complex and it is a special night after all, at least for some. Hope you enjoy it and wishing you all a prosperous and healthy 2013!
Yesterday I posted a recipe for a beetroot dip but it wasn’t the only one I had made for today’s lunch. I often make three, each with a different texture and colour and, of course, a different flavour. My favourite in the trio is baba ghannuge, where the secret is to get the aubergines as close to the grill as you can so that the skins burn a little and you get the smoky flavour that is so typical of this dip. Also, once you have peeled off the charred skin, you need to let the flesh drain for about half an hour to get rid of the excess liquid — you would be surprised at how much liquid drains out. Oh, and never use a blender with aubergines otherwise your dip will have no texture. It needs to be chunky even if it is very soft. I used to mash the aubergines with a fork but I now use a potato masher (much quicker) but I make sure not to pulverize the flesh too much.