As I have always said, food can be a glorious medium to break barriers and make friends from around the globe.
Such is my friendship with Feda Queen (isn’t it a beautiful name!). I have never met Feda or know much about her except that she hails from Lebanon and lives in Sydney. I also know that she is an amazing cook, willing to share her wealth of knowledge about Lebanese cooking to all those who wish to learn.
I ‘virtually’ met Feda on Facebook and was instantly drawn to her honest, down-to-earth, style of cooking. Soon, she became my window into the world of everyday Lebanese cooking. It was an eye-opener, really – my experience of the cuisine so far was based on memories of childhood tastes and a bunch of cookbooks.
Feda enjoys cooking for her family and she takes great pride in it in spite of having a full time banking career. She runs a small Facebook group, just a bunch of us who really want to learn Lebanese cuisine. No marketing, no unnecessary chit chats; just food in all its honesty for a bunch of us hungry souls.
Most of us would have heard of Baba Ghanouj – the eggplant and sesame seed dip which comes a close second to hummus in terms of popularity. This dip which is often a part of the mezze platter originated in the regions of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
I have made Baba Ghanouj plenty of times. In spite of being a ‘non-eggplant’ lover, I love the smoky, charred flavours that the eggplants lend to this creamy, slightly tangy dip. But Feda introduced me to a different version of eating Baba Ghanouj – topped with spiced minced lamb and toasted pine nuts.
My instant reaction on seeing this dish was WOW! That’s a complete dinner….some freshly baked pita and a fresh salad would make a great weekday dinner. This dish hardly takes much time and is a great way of bringing the family together. Don’t bother with individual plates; you have to eat it the Middle Eastern way. A big platter of Baba Ghanouj with the lamb and nuts, a bowl of salad and pitas on the side – all the family members coming together and sharing from a single plate, amidst plenty of talking, giggling and smiles. It’s such an enriching and happy experience.
Now this is a dish for both the vegetarians and non vegetarians. If you eat lamb, you can enjoy the whole dish but if you don’t, then you still have the Baba Ghanouj – a deliriously flavoursome dip with the smokiness of the roasted eggplants married with the creamy nuttiness of the tahina (sesame seed paste), some tanginess from the yoghurt and a good drizzle of olive oil and lemon. And top it off with some gently spiced lamb mince and toasted pine nuts.
Baba Ghanouj with Minced Lamb and Pine Nuts
To make Baba ghanouj:
- 2 large eggplant/aubergine/brinjal purple variety
- 1 big lemon
- ¼ cup tahini sesame seed paste
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt to season
- 1-2 tbsp natural yoghurt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
To make the minced lamb topping:
- 500 gms of minced lamb
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- 1 hot red chilli finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp chilli paste/sauce
- Salt to season
- Freshly milled black pepper to season
- 2 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
- 2-3 tbsp pine nuts toasted
To make the Baba ghanouj:
- Grill the eggplant till the outsides are really charred and the flesh inside has become soft. (I do it on the stove top but you can use an oven or a charcoal fire). Cover with a cloth and keep aside for 2 minutes.
- Peel the skin off while still warm; cut and chop the flesh roughly.
- Place in a mortar and pestle, food processor or grinder and add garlic, tahini, yoghurt and half of the lemon juice. Blend for a minute or two.
- Season with salt and check the taste. Add more tahini or lemon juice if necessary.
- Transfer to a large serving plate and drizzle the olive oil on top. If you prefer a creamier consistency, add the olive oil and blend again.
To make the minced lamb topping:
- In a large pan, heat ghee and add the minced lamb; fry for a couple of minutes till it has browned lightly.
- Add the diced onions, followed by the rest of the ingredients except pine nuts. Fry till the tomatoes have broken down and the moisture absorbed.
- Toast the pine nuts taking care not to burn.
- Cool slightly and spoon over the baba ghanouj.
- Garnish with the toasted pine nuts.
- Though a tabbouleh would have been a good accompaniment to the meal, I made an avocado salsa along with Lebanese pita breads to complete the meal.
Nicole - Champagne and Chips
This looks amazing.
Can I just come and live at your house please. I will supply wine 🙂
You have a deal Nicole; anything for the wine!!
I’m totally unfamiliar with Lebanese food, but if it’s all like this I think I need to get onto it! Looks amazing.
Amy, I am a big fan of Lebanese food (in fact of Middle Eastern food). So full of flavor…do give it a go.
thanks a lot.
Looks absolutely gorgeous Dhanya! 🙂
Nice one dish meal concept.. One question. Is yoghurt used in making Baba Ghanoush?
Yes, many Lebanese (and Arab)households use it to get that tang just as in hummus. But there are also versions which use just lemon juice.