Monday, 3 August 2009

Smoky Aubergine and Hummous Dip and other Mediterranean delights

I try not to begin a recipe with an excuse or a complaint, so I won't (although I am sorely tempted. After all, I have a bloody good reason* for having neglected this blog).

Here is a lovely, easy and quite delicious party dip I made last Thursday for an impromptu celebratory party with my dearest friends. The whole arrangement was very last minute (we were celebrating the Bloody Good Reason*) and as I didn't have time to plot, plan or do an in-depth shopping spree , I used what I had in the fridge and cupboard to produce an array of little snacky things and hors d'oeuvres ( or what my sister calls 'Horse der Ervrays').

It took just over two hours to get the Horse der Ervrays ready: a record time for me, although I admit I did get grumpy, and emitteda few rumbling and mewing noises.

Here's what I made:

* Marinated green and Calamata olives (drain the brine off the olives and soak them, in a warm or sunny place, for two hours, in olive oil spiked with crushed fresh garlic, dried red chillies, fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano, grated lemon zest, a few crushed coriander seeds and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). A similar recipe here.

* Ten-minute phyllo pastry cases with blue cheese, caramelised leeks and cherry tomatoes, topped with fresh rocket and a dash of olive oil and lemon juice. So quick and easy to make: recipe here.

* Oven-baked pork chipolatas with hot English mustard and a creamy wasabi dip (half Hellmann's mayonnaise, half thick Greek yoghurt, a squeeze of lemon juice and wasabi paste to taste).  Or try my Whipped Mustard Sauce

* Spicy, crunchy potato wedges with a roasted red-pepper dip (recipe here)

* Smoked Brinjal and Hoummous Dip (recipe below)

* Shop-bought tubs of pale-pink, creamy taramasolata and a punchy tapenade

* Fresh red and yellow cherry tomatoes with marinated mozzarella, a garlic-basil dressing and fresh basil leaves

* Fresh, shop-bought ciabatta bread, rye bread and little salty crackers (Salticrax, they're known here in South Africa)

* Umami Tomato Soup with croutons, Greek yoghurt, chives and Tabasco sauce. Recipe here.

Smoky Aubergine and Hummous Dip

I used home-made hoummous in this recipe (see notes at end of this post), but a good commercial hoummous will do just as well, provided that it is suitably lemony, zingy and garlicky. If your shop-bought hoummous seems to be punching below its weight stir in some extra fresh lemon juice, cumin and garlic (see Cook's Notes, below).

2 very large, shining aubergines (brinjals or eggplant), or three medium-sized ones
200 ml good hoummous (see note below)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
the juice of half a lemon
1 tsp (5 ml) powdered cumin
salt and freshly milled black pepper
extra cumin and/or cayenne pepper, to top

Preheat the oven to 200 ÂșC. Rinse and dry the aubergines and place them, whole, on the hot oven racks (put a baking sheet underneath them to catch any drips). Bake the aubergines for 35-45 minutes, or until they blistered, collapsed, and soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Put the aubergines on a big chopping board and open them out by slitting their skins. Using the back of knife, scrape out all the pulp (it doesn't matter if a few flecks of black skin remain) ) and put it into a sieve set over a bowl. Allow the pulp to drain for a few minutes, but don't discard the drained liquid.

Put the aubergine pulp into a liquidiser or food processor fitted with a metal blade and add the hoummous, olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon juice and cumin. Process at a medium speed until you have a well amalgamated though slightly rough mixture. If the mixture is too stiff to allow the blades to turn, add a little of the reserved drained liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip the dip into a bowl and top with a generous splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of cumin and/or cayenne pepper.

Makes about 600 ml dip.

* Bloody Good Reason is this: our family is moving back to Cape Town, after 17 years in Johannesburg. My dearly beloved has just started a new job in the fairest Cape of them all, and I - and the three kids - will move down to join him at the end of November. This involves all sorts of time-gobbling administrative tasks - sell house, find new house, pack old house, find schools for kids, get son through Matric, and so on. And we won't mention the extreme annoyance of having to spruce up one's house so it is ready for a show day. How come you never notice the grimy, grungy bits of a house until you see it through the eyes of someone who (you hope) wants to buy it?

Cook's Notes: tips for home-made hoummous

1. Use tinned chickpeas if you're in a hurry. For a smoother result, drain the tinned chickpeas and simmer them in water or stock for 30 minutes.

2. If you're making your hoummous from scratch, I suggest that you use less tahina (sesame paste) than specified in the recipe. I find that too much tahina in a hoummous makes it sticky, bitter and slightly peanut-buttery. And make sure the tahina is fresh: this ingredient doesn't have a good shelf life, once opened. Good tahina has a mild, nutty smell and taste. It should never taste stale or rancid.

3. Add a pinch of citric acid to your hoummous. I don't normally recommend additives, but I think a good hoummous needs to have a really zingy, lemony flavour. You can certainly achieve this by adding a lot of fresh lemon juice, but this will make your hoummous unpleasantly sloppy. A whisper of citric acid (available in the baking section of most supermarkets) really does the trick.
Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly


Nina Timm said...

The news of you guys moving here, just made my we have a chance to finally meet!!! Those snacks are indeed a Bloody good reason to have a party!!!

Rose&Thorn said...

I love dips, and homemade is always so good.
I tried the wedges the other night - they were so good - went very well with the sole, thanks again for a great recipe.

Juno said...

Thanks for the kind comments. Looking forward to meeting you too Nina.

Cindy said...

Just a tip for those who find chickpeas( and any dried beans) delicious but somewhat indigestible........ boil them with a sheet of nori. It will smell all fishy and horrid but does not affect the taste at all.Excuse my audacity, giving out tips on your blog!

Juno said...

Great tip; thanks Cindi!