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A Biography of Babaghanoush

Sigh. With its glorious, shiny amaranthine skin, the aubergine is surely one of the most beautiful vegetables around. Except it’s a fruit, which makes us love it even more.

As some of you might have noticed, we’ve a lot of love for these garden eggs, guinea squashes, brinjals, or whatever you want to call them. Aubergines make up our much loved G’NOSH Babaghanoush, and to celebrate this fabulous fruit, we’ve put together a short history to tickle your taste buds.

Aubergines, known as Eggplants in the US, are closely related to tomatoes and potatoes. They are native to India and have been cultivated there for thousands of years. Babaghanoush is certainly older than any of us, that’s for sure.

In 544, an ancient Chinese agricultural paper recorded its findings, which included the aubergine. Finally, England caught up, and in the 16th century these purple fruits were finally celebrated. We have the influential Elizabeth David to thank for the British love of aubergines; it was she who bought them to our attention in the mid twentieth century, bringing exotic Levantine dishes such as ‘spiced eggplant salad’ to the English table.

In Syria and Lebanon, Babaghanoush is commonly served with flatbreads as a dip. The Egyptians, on the other hand, serve it as a salad, with the addition of tomatoes and onions, and sometimes cumin, chilli or pomegranate.  Variations are found in Bulgaria, Israel, Turkey and Romania, with each country putting a different spin on things.

And the names? The Arabic term means ‘father of pestle’, with ‘baba’ meaning father and ‘ghanuj’ meaning stone or pestle, thought to allude to the mashing of the flesh after its been roasted. And Eggplant? Well that’s just because the white varieties look like eggs! So now you know.

However you serve it, and however you make it, it’s clear that Babaghanoush is a favourite with the British. We add caramelised onions to ours, along with masses of fresh herbs and a spoonful of tahini, a smooth sesame seed paste that’s also used in hummus.

G’iddy for Higgidy

Our friends at Higgidy are almost as mad about Babaghanoush as they are about pies.

They go perfectly with a dollop of dip, so here’s a recipe for you to try at home. Their book is available at retailers now, and is already a staple here at G’NOSH HQ!

Higgidy tip

Flatten out some day – old bread with a rolling pin and cut into circles. Place in little tartlet tins and bake for a few minutes. Hey presto – fuss free pastry!

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