Danielle Alvarez's Baba ghanoush with roasted spring onions, beetroot and green olive
Prep 20 mins (plus draining, cooling)
Cook 1 hr
“The best way to cook eggplant is over an outdoor grill over charcoal or wood embers. It’s my feeling that grilling over the ﬂames of a gas burner does nothing good for the ﬂavour,” says Danielle Alvarez. “Instead of subtle smokiness and char, you end up with an acrid, burnt ﬂavour. You want the eggplant to taste as if it has been just kissed by smoke, not like a piece of charcoal. Some charring on the outside is OK, just don’t aim to blacken it like you would a capsicum; it just needs to get soft. I like to serve this a bit like a salad, with some ﬂatbreads on the side for dipping.”
1 bunch baby beetroot of any colour, leaves trimmed and reserved for another use
Olive oil, for drizzling
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
4–5 new-season spring onions
50 ml verjus or white wine
24 whole green olives
Extra-virgin olive oil and ﬂatbreads, to serve
700–800g purple eggplant
6 tbsp unhulled tahini
2 garlic cloves, crushed in a mortar and pestle
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1. To make the baba ghanoush, prick the eggplants a few times with a knife to allow steam to escape as they cook, then roast on an outdoor grill over a medium heat. Alternatively, you can cook them under the grill of the oven or in a grill pan, but know that you won’t get the same smoky ﬂavour that is typical in baba ghanoush. You want the eggplant to be completely soft and collapsing in the middle. Once cooked, place in a bowl and cover with aluminium foil to allow them to continue softening. When cool enough to handle, peel off any black skin and ﬁnely chop the ﬂesh. Drain the eggplant for about 15 minutes in a sieve to eliminate most of the water. Place the strained ﬂesh in a bowl and add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and some salt. Check for seasoning, then set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the beetroot in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add a splash of water, then cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30–40 minutes, depending on their size. You should be able to pierce the beetroot all the way through with slight resistance when they’re done. Leave to cool, then peel and cut into slices or wedges. Mix with the vinegar and set aside.
3. While the beetroot is cooking you can roast your onions. Halve your spring onions lengthways and lay them in a baking dish, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then pour the verjus into the dish. Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 8–10 minutes until completely soft and lightly golden on one side. If the dish is looking very dry at the end, add a splash of water to the onions so they don’t completely dry out. Remove and set aside. Wrap the olives loosely in a tea towel and crush them lightly with the bottom of a frying pan to remove the pits. Set aside the pitted olives for plating.
4. To serve, spread the baba ghanoush on the bottom of a platter and top with the beetroot, onion and olives. Drizzle with good-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with warm ﬂatbreads.
Extracted with permission from the book Always Add Lemon by Danielle Alvarez, published by Hardie Grant Books, $50. Photography © Benito Martin and Jess Johnson.