Somehow, again, I have managed to share very little about our trip to Cyprus and Athens back in December and while I’m not about to bore you with a ton of holiday pictures (maybe just one?), I did think it was about time I mentioned at least a little about it. At the very least I should mention there was some great food. Many I had tried before and knew I loved, such as this delicious baba ghanoush, while a few others were new discoveries (that I hope to recreate some time!). This is a dish that goes by many names and variations across the region, but baba ghanoush is at least one of the more common names for this delicious eggplant/aubergine dip/spread that I could eat loads of (and did).
Before we went to Cyprus, I did what I often seem to do before trips these days – I think it’s a great idea a while in advance then in the week or two before we go I think what on earth am I going to do to entertain a toddler all that time while my husband is largely working? Will he be OK with the food? Why oh why did I think this was a good idea? Then once we are actually there I’m so glad I decided to go. This trip was different for us in a few ways – it was the first with two kids, my younger one being six weeks old at the time, and the first time being based in more of a resort. Actually that last bit is not quite true, it was sort of a resort in Canada last February but I struggle to think of a place as a resort when it’s cold, somehow. Anyway our hotel in Cyprus was a kind of smart hotel that was still family-oriented and while it seemed the kind of place I would normally hate – we were there because my husband’s conference was based there rather than picking it – I could certainly see the appeal. Having a broad kids menu (including some purees I was impressed to see), a buffet option for breakfast and dinner that was great as well as a swimming pool, little playground and access to the beach nearby did help make things pretty relaxing. As did the fantastic pleasantly-warm temperatures, it has to be said. It wasn’t exactly a big beach nor a fancy playground but it worked for a three year old and that was all that mattered. Plus, he loved a lot of the food – bread with dips for lunch is a winner with my son at least. Interestingly, his favorite was taramasalata – don’t know if it still would be if I told him it was made from cod roe – but mine was and I think always will be baba ghanoush.
It wasn’t actually called baba ghanoush in Cyprus – in fact I can’t remember the local name, as it was always translated as eggplant dip/salad – and it was sometimes more coarse than the version I have made here, but the core flavor of roasted eggplant with some good olive oil, garlic, lemon and tahini that make up most versions is such a great combination it really doesn’t matter. It’s not a difficult dish to make either – you simply blacken the eggplant either on the grill, over the flame on a gas stove or you can roast it in the oven if you don’t have either of the other options (although the flames do help give a good taste). Whichever way, you are looking for it to go black on the outside and the inside be tender. Once it cools, you peel off the skin then blend it up with everything else. It is delicious, as I say, as a dip with bread or vegetables, but you can also use it as a spread eg inside a pita with some lamb kofte (a recipe coming soon!), grilled chicken or whatever else you might have or enjoy.
Baba ghanoush is such a delicious dip or spread, and it’s also both easy and pretty good for you (especially this version without too much oil, plus it’s naturally vegan as well). It’s definitely one we enjoyed both on our trip and make now and then at home as well. It has a slight creaminess from the tahini, a fresh sharpness from the lemon and everything else gives it such great flavor as well. Why not add it to your game day menu, for something a little different, or just make some for any old reason – it’s pretty versatile so you can enjoy it in lots of ways! I’m going to be sharing it with Angie and co at Fiesta Friday to see if they agree.
Baba ghanoush (eggplant dip/spread)
- 1 eggplant/aubergine
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice approx 1/2 - 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tahini sesame paste
- salt and pepper
If possible, cook the eggplant on a grill/barbecue, turning now and then until it has blackened on all sides and is tender inside - time will depend on your grill but around 10-15min. If you can't grill it, you can do the same by placing it on a skewer and cooking over a gas flame on the stove or put it in an oven dish and bake around 15min at 450F/230C. In all cases, lightly brush it with olive oil before cooking.
Allow the cooked eggplant to cool enough to handle then peel off and discard the skin.
Place the eggplant flesh in a food processor/blender and add the rest of the ingredients (garlic - chop a bit first to save getting lumps, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini and salt and pepper). Pulse a few times until fairly smooth but still with a bit of texture. Try it and adjust seasoning to taste.