Moutabal

Moutabal is a beautiful mezze made by charring aubergines skin on, over a direct flame (ideally) turning them until they become tender inside and the skin burnt. It is smokey, creamy, pungent and fragrant. It is a barbecue staple. It goes with everything.

There are many variations of this salad made all over the Mediterranean and Middle East. The Palestinian way is heavy on the smoke, light on the garlic and tahini and generous with the olive oil.

A good quality tahini is very important in this dish for the right taste. I recommend the brand Al Nakhil if you can find it. They sell it in quite a few Middle Eastern / Turkish / Indian grocery shops in the UK. It comes in a beige tub with a green lid.

Serves 4 as a starter

Ingredients

2 large / or 3 medium sized aubergines
Juice of 2 lemons
2 – 3 tbsp tahini
1 crushed glove of garlic
1 small white onion
A handful of parsley, finely chopped
Olive Oil
Salt

The application of a naked direct flame to the aubergines is imperative to obtaining an intensely smoky flavour. For that intensity of flavour, gas is best. You can put the aubergines under a hot grill rotating them or on a barbeque for a decent enough version

Place the aubergines (one on each hob) on to the direct heat. You will need to turn them at intervals; tongs are advisable for those who don’t have asbestos hands but the latter is easier. This whole process should take approximately 20 minutes depending on the size of the aubergines and the strength of the flame.The skin should be black and charred, an acrid and awful smell will fill your kitchen. If you are not sure as to whether the aubergines are done then give it a prod; it should be completely soft on the inside and the initial shape of the aubergine should have collapsed to a flatter shape. Leave to cool for fifteen or twenty minutes so that you can handle them.

Whilst you are doing this peel the onion but leave it whole. Pierce holes all over it and then boil it for approximately 5 minutes until soft and then leave aside to cool. Once cool chop very finely. Meanwhile, crush your clove of garlic and chop your parsley.

Once your aubergines are cool peel off the black outside skin and discard. Now finely chop the flesh and put it in a mixing bowl. Add the onion, garlic and 2 tablespoons of tahini and beat with a wooden spoon giving everything a good mix. You can then slowly add your lemon juice and keep stirring. Taste it and add more tahini if required. Do not add too much tahini too quickly otherwise it will be cloying and you will ruin the flavour of the eggplant. Add salt to taste, stir in the parsley and serve at room temperature with  lots of olive oil and bread for dipping.

Optional extras of pomegranate rills / pomegranate molasses, toasted almonds, mixed herbs or try making it greek style with yoghurt instead of tahini.

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