Summer in Brussels is a good thing. I mean a really good thing. Well, summer anywhere is, right? And still, Brussels people (and probably Belgian people in general) though, cherish each and every ray of sun and spend every possible minute outside. I guess the simple reason may just be that living in this country, with its average of annual 1546 hours of sunshine, comes with a little vitamin D deficit, so when the sun is out, we’re literally soaking up the light and this with great pleasure. Not a Belgian natural on paper (yet… I am somehow considering…and being looked at oddly…why?), but still a happy resident for almost seven years, I go along and spend as much time as I can in Brussels’ many parks and forests, stocking up on vitamin D. With everybody out, this city lightens up and becomes an even better place to be. It is just such a jolly atmosphere!
While I do not spend much time in the kitchen at the moment, but do not want to eat out that often, healthy eating needs a little more planning and quick and good recipes. Summer temperatures also make me crave garlic and lemon and grilled things, and generally luke warm foods. Soooo let’s eat smoky, garlicky, lemony aubergine spread a.k.a. Baba Ganoush! It sounds much more complicated to make than it is. Opinions differ as to what a classic Baba Ganoush calls for, but I think in the end it is just about your own preferences. So take this recipe as a start, and add or leave out ingredients according to your likings. I like the nuttiness of a little tahini, but it is absolutely optional (if you leave it out, you might need to add a bit more olive oil). Play with chopped Italian parsley, mint or coriander (the latter being rather dominant, though). A little spice to top off is nice, too, so try cayenne, chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper. You can also add some pomegranate seeds, but I wanted to keep it simple and have left them out.
There are three options to prepare the aubergines. Smoking them over a hot BBQ, which might not be an option for you, I know, this is why there’s option two, blackening them over a gas hob, as well as option three: chargrilling the aubergines in a hot griddle pan and, here comes a little cheating, adding smoked paprika to the mix later on as the aubergines lack a little of that smoky flavor when going for this third method. Not having a BBQ at my disposal, but a gas hob (which I am SO happy with!) I go for the second option.
I have paired the Baba Ganoush with what’s cooking good looking’s chickpea flour flatbreads. They lend themselves for an excellent base for all kinds of spreads or fillings and are really easy and quick to put together. No kneading, floury kitchen chaos or long baking times involved, promise.
Notes: You could have the flatbreads with Baba Ganoush as a meze or snack, adding other spreads and tapenades. They also make for a good lunch, stacking the little towers with sautéed red and yellow peppers, some rucola leaves or sprouted beans. Be creative!
The chickpea flour flatbreads are dairy-free and can be made gluten-free if you use gluten-free baking powder.
Baba Ganoush with Chickpea Flatbreads
Serves 2-3 (just double the quantities as needed)
500g aubergines, washed and pat dry, left whole
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (two for roasting the aubergines, and two to mix in later)
juice of ½ lemon
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press, or crushed and finely minced
1 teaspoon tahini paste
2 tablespoons Italian parsley or mint leaves, finely minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt (or more to taste if you like it saltier)
freshly ground black pepper
for garnish: a little Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes, some more lemon juice and herbs
Heat the oven to 180°C.
Option one: Over a BBQ fire, blacken the aubergines from all sides for a couple of minutes, until the skin starts to get wrinkly. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
Option two: Using a kitchen tongue or simply a fork, ‘burn’ the aubergines over medium-high heat over your gas hob, turning regularly for them to blacken equally from all sides for about 4-5 minutes, until the skin starts to get wrinkly (careful: that fork can suddenly become really hot – my finger is still hurting 😉 ). Set aside for a few minutes to cool.
Option three: Heat a griddle pan over high heat, no oil added, and chargrill the aubergines from all sides, until the skin starts to get wrinkly, then turn off heat, and set the vegetables aside to cool a little.
Cut the aubergines in half lengthways, place on a baking tray, rub the open side with two tablespoons olive oil and roast in the hot oven for about 35-40 minutes until the flesh is completely soft. Leave to cool for a few minutes, before scraping out the flesh with a spoon and transferring it to a large chopping board. Chop finely with a large kitchen knife, then place in a bowl, together with all other ingredients. Mix until well combined. Check for salt, pepper and lemon.
275g chickpea flour (for example available in Indian grocery stores as gram flour)
1 ½ teaspoon (gluten-free) baking powder
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 large egg + 1 large egg white
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
180ml filtered water
to garnish: some black or white sesame seeds, paprika powder and flaky salt
Heat the oven to 200°C.
In a big bowl, mix together the chickpea flower, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, briefly whisk the eggs with a fork or hand whisk, then mix in oil and water. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, combining the two with a big spoon without overmixing.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Place 3 heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheet, flatten with the back of a spoon into rounds of about 10-12cm diameter. Leave 2cm space between the circles. Depending on the size of your baking tray, you might need to bake the flatbreads in two rounds.
Sprinkle with sesame, paprika powder and salt and bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes, until golden.
As Jody notes on her blog, the pittas is best eaten when still warm as they dry out quite fast. I find, however, that they still taste very well warmed up in a sandwich maker or toaster the next day.