A few weeks ago I went to an Arabian Nights Supper Club hosted by Genie Cooks (aka my friend, Sharon Al-Momami) in South West London. I already knew Sharon could cook – she’s the one who took me on that amazing seaside foraging adventure in Essex last year. But the supper club was her chance to show off the Middle Eastern dishes that she’s perfected over the last couple of decades by immersing herself in the culture and family life of Jordan.
The supperclub menu included a few familiar Middle Eastern favourites such as hummus, tabbouleh and pita, but there were surprises, too. Case in point: mousakhan, chicken – or labna if you’re vegetarian – in a delicate, super-thin flatbread with caramelised onion and sumac.
What really got my attention was Sharon’s moutabal, an aubergine and tahini dip very similar to baba ganoush. I’ve always been a sucker for all things eggplant, and this was no exception. Sure, I’d had baba ganoush before – and loved it – but this seemed different. I can’t put my finger in it, and in fact, the difference between moutabal and baba ganoush is a little hazy. The answer seems to depend on where you’re from and who you talk to. Sharon says for her, moutabal is made with tahini and baba ganoush isn’t. But however you spin it, moutabal is creamy aubergine awesomeness, and the kind of thing I want to eat all the time.
Last weekend, Sharon came to Orchard Cottage for dinner with me and my Austin friend Marcella. We needed something to nosh on while we cooked (and drank Prosecco), so Sharon showed me the ways of moutabal, which involves roasting the aubergines whole over a direct flame for about 20 minutes, or until they’re charred on the outside and soft on the inside. I have an electric hob so we improvised with my gas grill outdoors.
Once the aubergine cools, it’s a simple matter of peeling it and mashing up the insides with tahini, Greek yoghurt, lemon, garlic and salt. The moutabal, along with Turkish flatbread and hummus, was the perfect way to start our evening of feasting, drinking and rafter swinging. And let’s face it, there’s nothing like bread and hearty dips garnished with lots of olive oil to help lube the system in preparation for a very merry evening. Consequentially, the moutabal is excellent hangover food, particularly along side Sharon’s fried flatbread sandwiches, stuffed with feta, zaatar and salsa macha.
- 2 aubergines
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- Prick your aubergines all over with a fork to prevent them from exploding during cooking.
- Cook the aubergines over a direct flame for about 20 minutes (or until soft) charring them on all sides. This gives the moutabal a wonderful smoky flavour.
- Once the aubergines are cooked, leave them to cool for about 20 minutes.
- Now peel the aubergines carefully and put the flesh into a mixing bowl. Make sure you remove as much of the charred skin as possible.
- Add the tahini, yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice and salt and stir gently to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Spoon the moutabal into a serving dish, garnish with pomegranate seeds (optional), chopped fresh parsley and a little virgin olive oil. Serve with pitta bread. Can be eaten warm or cold.
This recipe first appeared on Sharon’s blog.