Baba Ghanoush and Muhammara

One pot dishes are great, but it sucks when you commit to one recipe – or to one dish in a restaurant – and it falls short of expectations, or you wish that it had an accompaniment, or that you might have a little variation, a few more tastes, on the table. Eating mezze eradicates this problem. It provides a palette of different flavours from which to pick and sample in modest amounts, and it always leaves me feeling more satisfied. Here are two of my favourite cold mezzes – both dips. Baba ghanoush (which translates to “the darling of her father” – such poetry! – in Arabic) comes from Lebanon and is made from fire-smoked eggplant with tahini, lemon, olive oil and (in my recipe) yoghurt, and muhammara, a roasted red pepper, walnut and pomegranate molasses concoction, hails from Syria – Middle Eastern capital of sweet and sour. Devour with grilled flatbread, fattoush salad, and maybe some halloumi or falafel.

By | July 01, 2015



For the baba ghanoush:
3 large eggplants
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp plain yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
pinch sea salt and black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch za’atar 
flatbread, to serve

For the muhammara:
3 large red bell peppers
extra virgin olive oil sea salt plus freshly ground black pepper
1 cup walnuts, plus a handful to serve
½ white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
pinch dried chili flakes
juice of ½ lemon
flatbread to serve, lightly toasted


For the baba ghanoush (serves 4)
1. With a fork or prong, pierce the top of each eggplant and hold it above as big an open flame as possible to let it blacken all over. This will take 15–20 minutes, and the eggplants will be left looking charred, flaky and soft.
2. Peel the skins from the flesh and discard. You will be left with a little bit of blackened skin, but try to keep it to a minimum. With a knife and fork or—even better—a potato masher, break the flesh apart. Don’t be tempted to put it in the blender—you want to maintain some of the texture. Transfer to a sieve and set over the sink for 5–10 minutes, to drain off excess liquid.
3. Combine the drained flesh with the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice and garlic. Some recipes don’t use yogurt, but I prefer to balance out the sesame strength of tahini with some light creaminess. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Lastly, drizzle your best extra virgin olive oil on top so that it makes little wells between lumps of eggplant. Sprinkle with za’atar and enjoy with good-quality fresh flatbread.

For the muhammara (serves 4)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2.  Bake the bell peppers on a rimmed baking sheet with a large tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper until they are blackened and slightly wilted—this cantake up to half an hour.
3. Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 6–7 minutes, moving regularly. You should be able to smell their oily, nutty aroma without letting them burn.
4. Remove the bell peppers from the oven and when they are cool enough to touch, pull out the stems and seeds and discard. Place the flesh in a blender along
with the nuts, onion, garlic, pomegranate molasses, bread crumbs, three tablespoons of olive oil, chili flakes and lemon juice. Blend until combined. Taste and
gauge the balance of flavors—sweet should be equal to sour.
5. When ready to serve, put into a bowl with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle over the remaining walnuts. Enjoy with good-quality flatbread.

From The World on a Plate by Mina Holland, published on May 26, 2015 by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright by Mina Holland, 2015.

About this recipe

Baba ghanoush means “the darling of her father”—or “daddy’s girl dip,” as I like to call it. The secrets to perfect baba ghanoush are balance and smoke: don’t let the quantities of the ingredients fall out of kilter and do char the eggplants over an open flame—don’t grill them. Smokiness is fundamental to getting this right. If you have an electric cooktop, I’m afraid you’ll have to light the barbecue and hold the eggplants over it on a prong. It’s worth it.

Muhammara is local to Aleppo in Syria, and is typical of its wonderful sweet-and-sour flavors—charred red bell peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon, garlic, walnuts. It is usually eaten with pita bread as a meze dish, but it goes very well with grilled meats as a relish (you should end up with a pesto-like consistency) if authenticity is less of a priority. Muhammara benefits from being left to sit and mature in the fridge for a few hours before serving—this will soften the garlic and allow the flavors to combine.

Related Stories & Recipes

Lebanese Hash

When I was in college in the ’70s our Lebanese resident advisor invited us over to sample his hash. This egg dish may not have been exactly what everyone was expecting. This is the perfect brunch dish...
Build your own subscription bundle.
Pick 3 regions for $60
We will never share your email address with anyone else. See our privacy policy.