It started when he said “baba ghanoush”

I visited the Auckland City Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning with K, where we lapped up sunshine, pastries and creamy ginger lattes. I also picked up some salad leaves and edible flowers (sandwich ingredients for the week), and a tub of some very delicious tahini!

…Tahini. Back in 2007, this lovely couple introduced me to the wonders of tahini on toast (amongst other things along the lines of havarti and gouda cheese – dangerous!) I remember a time when I spread tahini on every slice of bread I ate. It was like a sesame version of peanut butter – except nuttier and lovelier… novel, I guess, is the word to describe it.

This last Saturday, I chanced upon this stall at the market and chatted briefly with Yinon, the friendly owner and he mentioned the magic words – “baba ghanoush” – which got me thinking…

I’ve only ever had baba ghanoush out of a tub from the supermarket – and in my mind, it’s always been something under the same category as pesto and hummus. Something to slop on bread or on crackers, occasionally with cheese and cracked pepper. It’s never crossed my mind to try making it.

So when Yinon talked a little about the process of making baba ghanoush – baking the eggplants, scooping out the flesh and all, I thought I’d give it a try. I looked up recipes online and jotted down the ingredients I would need, and headed to the supermarket with Mandy late on Saturday evening.

In the end, I didn’t make baba ghanoush. I added capsicum to the list of standard ingredients and didn’t measure ingredient proportions. Mostly because we were running out of time and I was trying to bake a brownie for an evening gatherine too…

So we ended up with something not quite bona fide baba ghanoush, but fun to eat nevertheless. I sliced the eggplants in half and baked them for around 30 minutes – then fried the eggplant flesh with garlic and sliced capsicum, then added the juice of one lemon, a pinch of cumin, a tablespoon of my spices from Morocco, salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of tahini to the mix.

One marvellous thing about food, I find, is that one idea leads to another, one ingredient to many great things. In cooking, I don’t believe it is necessary to follow all recipes with biblical obedience – far better to read it like a story, work with basic methods and leave it to experimentation/inspiration when implementing (one exception is certainly this magic brownie from Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette which requires no modification).

Dinner loosely resembled a mezze platter – eggplant and tahini dip, toasted Turkish bread, fresh cucumber slices, fried venison meatballs and sauteed mushrooms.

Overall a fun dinner, and we all agreed the texture of the eggplants may not have been a bad thing after all (more ‘solid’ than baba ghanoush) but I think next time I will include a little less tahini in it, and skip the meatballs. Alas, meatballs and I have trouble getting along in the kitchen – they turned out browner than burnt chocolate and still rather flushed in the middle after 40 long minutes in the pan. Pfft!

For fresh tahini, harissa chilli and other such yummy foods, stop by:
The Chilli Factor – Saturday mornings at Auckland City Farmers’ Market, behind the Britomart Trainstation on Gore Street – look for Yinon! – Phone: 021 141 7348

For more information on your local farmers’ markets or to vote for your favourite market/producer/stallholder (and be in to win a fantastic prize) – visit
http://www.tastefarmersmarkets.org.nz :-)

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5 responses to “It started when he said “baba ghanoush”

  1. I love tahini SO much, I know what you mean about using it like peanut butter. Too delicious. I also love how a recipe can just inspire you to go in your own direction, that eggplant dip looks so delicious :) (and ginger lattes, oh my!)

  2. Meatball trick – brown in pan and finish in oven to avoid the pink insides… alternatively, half fry half steam them by adding water to the pan partway through cooking – prevents burning, keeps moist and also regulates temperature while improving heat transfer. :) Or cook in sauce.

    Anyway, heard from Mandy that tahini and eggplant = goodness… she was so delighted that she told my mom to give it a go!

    • Ah, that makes a lot of sense! I shall definitely aim to do that next time when I try cooking meatballs again! Thanks Heidz. (That was a pretty scientific reply too, lol!)

  3. Mm! I love tahini on toast with roasted red peppers. It was my favorite breakfast at 5 am when I was working as a cook.

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