You know this smell, right?
Maybe your mum owned a vertical griller? Yes, it was a revolution, but then again, so was communist Russia…but that’s another scent altogether.
Back to the dip. The trick here is the burning of the eggplant. Ideally, you’ll choose a largeish eggplant, and stick a long fork or tongs at the top end (where it met the plant at the stem), so you can keep your fingers from meeting the same fate as the aubergine (the eggplant’s European alias). It’s best to use an open flame for this, but you can get a decent result with an electric element. If none of these, or open element grill are available, then you can shallow fry in smoking hot oil. Any time there’s water around oil (the inside of the eggplant) there will be splatters, so keep a respectful distance.
Burn means burn. make sure as much of the outside is burnt as possible. You won’t be eating this skin, so don’t fret about the cancer risk. That’s coming from the plastic ware you’ve been heating your leftovers in for years.
From here it’s straightforward. When cool, open the eggplant, and use a spoon to remove the flesh, into a jug for blending.
For each medium (about 20cm long) eggplant, add a tablespoon of tahini (or cheat, a teaspoon of sesame oil, and 2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds), a tablespoon of cooked garlic (cloves roasted or pan fried) or half that of garlic paste. A Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar (lemon juice is better, and some recipes call for both), and 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil..salt to taste.
I do not recommend cumin or other spices, as they can mask the smoky flavour, and you may want to serve other dips (like hummus – recipe coming) which already have cumin in them.
Blend the mix very will, and taste and adjust to your palate
Serve as above. A dash of olive oil and paprika if you like.
Serve with any of the “gourmet” breads you’ll find annexing the shelves in your supermarket. I like to get fresh pita bread, brush it with olive oil and salt (and cumin seeds, or fennel seeds or pepper), cut it into 8 (like a cake) and roasted at around 150C til crisp (around 10 minutes, but watch it carefully).
As they say in Egypt “is that policeman smiling coz he’s happy, or about to shoot us?”