smoky eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

I’m somewhat of a grazer, preferring to pick throughout the day or at least eat many small meals instead of few larger ones. Our dinner often consists purely of a handful of homemade dips, good quality cheese and dukkah with olive oil, with the leftovers making for the perfect lunch or between-meals snack the next day. Picking up a voluptuous eggplant at the markets this morning meant only one thing: smoky eggplant dip. Two reasons for this: I’m a big fan of said dip, and because preparing eggplant in any other fashion scares me stupid.

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I’ve been scarred many a time by my own failings in the kitchen involving a tough moussaka and a spongy curry, to name a few. Of all the vegetable friends I make in the kitchen, eggplant simply ain’t one of them. That and five years of vegetarianism ensuring I was limited to dishes containing what seemed to be the vegetarian’s ‘holy trinity’ (capsicum, zucchini and eggplant), not exactly my favourite flavour combination. I’m certain I simply need more practice with this purple gem, as my Nonna’s ‘melanzane parmigiana’ is one of my favourite things in her repertoire. But then again, if your Nonna is doing a fine job of said dish, shouldn’t I let sleeping dogs lie? I’ll stick with my baba ghanouj, thank you very much.

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smoky eggplant dip (baba ghanouj) – makes approx 1-1.5 cups – gluten free + vegan

you’ll need…

  • 1 large eggplant, halved lengthways
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • few tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, to smooth out the mix
  • salt and pepper, to taste

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat your grill to it’s highest setting. Place the two eggplant halves, skin side up, on a tray lined with foil. Grill until the skin is blackened and the flesh can be pierced easily with a skewer. The timing of this will vary depending on your grill and the size of your eggplant, but mine took roughly 30 minutes. Keep your eye on it, checking every 5 minutes or so.
  2. Allow the eggplant to cool slightly before scooping the flesh into your food processor. Add remaining ingredients except the oil and whiz, adding the oil 1 tbsp at a time whilst processor is running. Make sure you only add enough oil to smooth out the mixture, allowing for a creamy, homogenous dip.
  3. Season to taste, even adding more lemon or cumin if you wish. Serve drizzled with fresh olive oil and black sesame seeds, if you wish, alongside fresh, warm bread.

baked ricotta with honey, orange + toasty walnuts

I’m definitely a sweet-toothed-breakfast kinda gal. Not in the sense that I require a batch of breakfast brownies at the ready as I roll out of bed (although, that’s got me thinking…), I just prefer the fruity, lighter options to start the day. I’ve been looking for inspiration, something different to add to the morning repertoire, and after the hubby bought 1kg of the creamiest ricotta for a recipe that only required 100g, I was left with much web-trawling time to find a use for the remaining 900g. I knew where my search would begin.

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Gourmet Traveller always have the most unique and, well, gourmet recipes with a great search function that allows you to find a recipe for any ingredient you’ve got lying around. This one in particular jumped out at me, being won over simply by the recipe’s picture. Oh, and it’s simplicity! The ricotta ends up soaked in this gloriously sticky-sweet honey syrup that permeates every little air bubble within the creamy cheese. I ran out of almonds, so substituted with toasty walnuts, a welcomed addition. I think you could use just about any nut – hazelnuts spring to mind also – and try it with maple instead of honey for a different kick. I kept it gluten free, opting to use almond meal instead of the plain flour. The result is the lightest, most moist and warming wedge of ricotta that paired perfectly with dense wholemeal spelt. So versatile, you could serve it with fresh fruit or as a light dessert – either way, it’s satisfied my mornings sweet-tooth in a relative wholesome way, that’s for sure.

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baked ricotta with honey, orange + walnuts – adapted from Gourmet Traveller – serves 4-6 – gluten free

you’ll need…

  • 40g butter, at room temperature
  • 55g raw sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp almond meal
  • 380g dry, firm ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • handful of toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • for the orange syrup:
    • zest of 1 orange, and juice of half the orange
    • 80gm honey

here’s what you do…

  1. Preheat oven to 240C. Beat the butter, sugar and honey in an electric mixer until smooth. Add in eggs individually, beating until well combined. Fold in the ricotta and almond meal (I use the lowest speed on my Kitchenaid).
  2. Transfer to a greased and lined 9-inch cake tin, smoothing mixture evenly in the pan. Bake for 12-16 min or until puffed and golden (mine took closer to 20 min – just keep a close eye so it doesn’t burn!).
  3. For the syrup, combine ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until honey dissolves. Spoon it over the baked ricotta and then top with walnuts, serving it with some dark, rich sourdough.