Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Badenjan: Moroccan Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip

Having bought a bushel of 20 large eggplants from Toronto's Little Italy last weekend, I started to explore a number of recipes to take advantage of our abundant harvest, and came across this tantalizing recipe by Nigella for a Persian-Iranian Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip, also known as Badenjan — an elegant, rich and creamy mezze. I've never been fond of baba-ghanoush, but this antipasto had an extraordinary layer of flavour and texture that was
thoroughly addictive. So easy and delicious in fact, we'll be making it every year, for it's now become part of our culinary repertoire. 

Nigella's recipe is a variation on a dish she read about in Najmieh Batmanglij's 'New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking & Ceremonies'. She says that she finds it hard to ascribe the origins of a recipe, or explain how she came to make something the way she does. "Sometimes recipes may be merely suggested by something I've read somewhere, and then I'll diverge from it. I find it impossible to cook without fiddling: which means all my recipes are refracted through the prism of my own tastes and prejudices. I wholly expect you to do the same!"

Borani Badenjan Dip - Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip
10 servings as part of mezze - about 2 1/4 cups
Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

3 small eggplants, about 1 1/4 cups when roasted, pulped and sieved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 fat cloves garlic, minced or grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp saffron threads soaked in 3 tbsp warm water

3 tbsp chopped fresh mint, to garnish or more to taste

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted, to garnish
Dribble extra-virgin olive oil, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Prick the eggplants with a fork and put them on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until soft to the touch. Allow to cool before peeling and mashing them, then leave the pulp in a sieve to drain.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until golden and then add the drained eggplant mush, cooking it with the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes over a gentle heat, stirring frequently. Take off the heat and turn into a bowl to cool and season with salt and pepper.

Add the yogurt to the cooled eggplant mixture together with the saffron in the now golden water, stirring together well. Turn into a bowl and sprinkle over lots of chopped mint, toasted pine nuts and a dribble of oil. Serve with warm pita bread or crisp breads.