Moutabal

by Monica Shaw
Moutabal

Moutabal

With the coming and going of solstice last Friday, it feels like summer has finally arrived, and so too has one of my favourite vegetables: the wondrous purple aubergine. I’ve been a huge fan of aubergine ever since I had my first ever aubergine parmigiana at Caputo’s, a family favourite (and sadly now gone) Italian restaurant in Chicago, when I was seven years old (credit to my parents for indoctrinating me to good food - and good restaurants - at a very early age). Ever since then I’ve loved aubergine and have always looked forward to summer when it’s at its best.

Aubergine parmigiana is a bit ambitious for day to day cooking, but fortunately I’ve stumbled upon a few ways with aubergine that are simple but just as delicious, making it possible to enjoy this vegetable on a more regular basis. They also have the benefits of not using excessive amounts of olive oil, as many aubergine recipes seem to do.

Baked aubergine is one of my favourites: slice the aubergine in half, slash the flesh and rub it with something tasty like pesto, salsa macha or chermoula. Even something as simple as olive oil, salt and pepper will do. Bake flesh-side up at 180C for 40 minutes or until the aubergine is absolutely soft. Turn this into a meal with simple sides like rocket salad, quinoa or bulgar wheat, a scatter of parsley or cilantro and a wedge of lemon.

By far the simplest way to deal with eggplant is to bake or grill it whole then scoop out the insides and turn it into something yummy like Indian baingan bhartha or my latest eggplant revelation: Moutabal. My friend Sharon (aka Genie Cooks) taught me how to make this Middle Eastern aubergine and tahini dip, very similar to baba ganoush. This is pure, creamy aubergine awesomeness, perfect for pita or flatbread and the kind of thing I want to eat all the time. Which is just as well because it’s extraordinarily easy to make.

1
To begin, use a fork to prick the skins of the aubergines several times - this will stop them exploding as they cook
2
Place over a direct flame for 20 minutes (or until soft) until charred all over to help achieve a wonderfully smoky flavour. Allow to cool for 20 minutes
3
Carefully peel the aubergines, placing the flesh into a bowl and reserving as much of the charred skin as you can
4
Gently stir in the garlic, tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice and salt until combined. Season to taste
5
Add to serving bowls and scatter over garnishes of your choice. Serve warm or cold with pitta breads
Serve warm or cold with pitta breads