Baba Ghannouj or Batinjaan Mutabbal are the names used interchangeably for the same dish. However, the term Batinjaan Mutabbal summarises what it is about. Batinjaan is the Arabic name for aubergine, Mutabbal means flavoured or seasoned with, the aubergine in this instance is grilled giving it that wonderful characteristic flavour which is then enhanced by adding garlic, lemon and tahini paste.
Batinjaan Mutabbal or simply Mutabbal, as we Lebanese often call it, is an integral part of the Lebanese Mezza, but also makes a delicious accompaniment to barbecued meat or fish. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, most importantly, it is easy to make.
One tip worth mentioning is that when buying aubergines, look for the large, beefy and seedless ones, also, please do not attempt to liquidise the cooked flesh, mash it with a fork to preserve the texture.
- 2 large or 3 medium aubergines weighing 800-900g / 2lb approx, it is not a lot, aubergines shrivel during grilling
- 3-4 fat cloves of garlic peeled
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp tahini paste
- 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds (the sour ones) or the same amount of chopped flat leaf parsley.
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
You also need a shallow baking tray lined with aluminium foil.
- Pre-heat the grill medium to high heat.
- Wash the aubergines as they are (skin on without cutting any stems), then pat dry with a kitchen paper. Take a small sharp knife and make 4 incisions lengthways along the aubergines at 90º to each other, to prevent them from bursting. Place them on the foil covered baking tray and grill them for about 25-30 minutes, turning them every 8 minutes to ensure they are evenly cooked. At the end, we are looking for a blackened charred skin while the inside is soft, you will also notice the excess juices running out (see picture).
- Wait a few minutes for the aubergines to cool down, then cut in half lengthways and pushing aside the skin with the fork (see picture), scoop out the soft inside with a spoon and put it into a colander to drain out excess juice, leave it for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle salt onto the garlic and crush into a paste, then add the aubergine flesh, mix and using a fork mash gently to obtain a soft but not pureed texture (see picture). Next, stir in the lemon juice, tahini paste and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust if necessary.
- Transfer into 2 shallow serving bowls, fill evenly then make a depression in the middle (see picture). Decorate with the pomegranate seeds or parsley then drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Serve at room temperature with Lebanese or Pitta bread. This is best eaten on the same day but will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.