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Daily Archives: August 19, 2015

Black Garlic, Roasted Aubergine & Tomato Persian-Style Dip (mirza ghasemi)

How about a black garlic recipe today? Have you tried using this amazing ingredient in your cooking? You gotta give it a go if you haven’t already.

The Persian roasted aubergine dip (mirza ghasemi) is one of my all-time favourite dishes. I love the combination of the soft smokey aubergine pulp, garlic, tomatoes and the scrambled eggs. When I tasted black garlic the first thing that came to my mind was to give it a try in mirza ghasemi. The experiment with black garlic turned really good results. My guests that night mopped up all of that very quickly and made lots of compliments.

Ingredients for black garlic and aubergine dip
Ingredients for black garlic and aubergine dip

Black garlic originates from east Asia where they hugely believe in its health benefits. It’s now becoming more and more popular in other countries too. Whole bulbs look quite like smoked garlic but the cloves are very dark, almost black, and have a creamy consistency. They taste sweet with a hint of balsamic vinegar and are much milder than normal garlic.

Black-garlic-cloves-and-whole-head
Black garlic cloves and whole heads

Black garlic tastes better when it is lightly sautéed in olive oil before mixing with the aubergine pulp. I like to scramble the eggs before folding them into the aubergine mixture but you can also mix lightly beaten eggs gently through the aubergine mix and cook until set.

black-garlic-recipes
Scrambling the eggs in the same pan

This lovely dip is a great accompaniment to many dry white wines.

To serve 4-6 people as appetizer you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 large or 4 small aubergines
  • 8 cloves of black garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (about 12)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Mint, marinated black olives and sliced preserved lemons to garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
  2. Pierce the aubergines with a fork in several places and put directly on the oven rack in the centre. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is really soft. Baking time depends on the size of the aubergines so you need to keep an eye on them.
  3. Cut through the skin of the aubergines when cool enough to handle and scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon. Mash lightly.
  4. Mash the black garlic cloves with a fork.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat and add the black garlic. Sauté for one minute, then add the turmeric and continue cooking for another minute until fragrant. Add the aubergine and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and cook while stirring until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture is thick. Season well with salt and black pepper. Pull the mixture to the side of the frying pan and pour the lightly beaten eggs in the empty side. Stir and cook the eggs until set. Now mix the scrambled eggs with the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Transfer the dip to a serving plate and garnish with sprigs of mint and marinated black olives and/or sliced preserved lemons. Serve with crispbread or warmed flatbread such as lavash or pita. Enjoy!

Tomato & Fennel Salad with Vegan Pistachio Pesto

Tomato and fennel salad doesn’t really need a recipe to make, does it? But you’ll probably want to read this post if you want to make the delicious pistachio pesto I used to dress my tomato and fennel salad.

The pesto dressing makes all the difference in this salad. The peppery tang of the summer/winter savoury/savory (marzeh in Persian), mint and pistachio pesto really complements the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Summer savoury (and its perennial relative winter savoury) are hard to find in many countries unless one grows them at home but in Iran summer savoury is sold in big bunches by every greengrocer. If you don’t have summer/winter savoury I recommend using a mixture of mint and fresh thyme. The sharpness of thyme works quite well too.

marzeh-herb
On the right: summer savoury/savory (Satureja hortensis), a very versatile herb that can be grown from seed on a windowsill. On the left: winter savoury/savory, an easy to grow perennial.

Tomatoes didn’t show up in Iran until late 19th or early 20th century but when they did they completely took over the cuisine. It’s hard to imagine Persian cooking without tomatoes or tomato puree/paste.

One of my earliest memories is of my grandma boiling sieved tomatoes in huge pots in summer to make tomato paste. High tomato prices in Iran can even have political ramifications, seriously! So this salad is not Persian in form but quite Persian in spirit!

I made my salad with some lovely heritage tomatoes I found in a market but any nice juicy sweet tomato will work. Cherry tomatoes of any colour will work nicely too. Fennel bulbs add crunch to this salad but sliced cucumbers can be used instead if fennel isn’t available or in season where you live.

I made my pesto with raw pistachios but roasted pistachios also make a lovely pesto. I like to sprinkle chopped pistachios on the salad for a bit of extra crunch, too.

pistachio-pesto-with-savory-and-mint
Ingredients for the savoury & mint pistachio pesto. The winter savoury has flowered profusely. Even tastier!

There is no cheese in my salad but feel free to add your favourite cheese. I recommend crumbled Feta or Bulgarian cheeses or cubed grilled halloumi. My favourite British cheese to use in this salad is white Cheshire. It’s so incredibly delicious.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 500g tomatoes, sliced or cut into big chunks
  • 1 small head of fennel (or sliced cucumber)
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful of fresh summer/winter savoury or thyme
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • 1 small clove of garlic (or more if you wish)
  • 25g shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • A handful of chopped pistachio nuts

Method

  1. Put the nuts, garlic and the herbs with 75ml olive oil in the food processor and process until chopped well but not too smooth. You can also use a mortar and pestle to make the pesto. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. Spread one-third of the pesto on a plate. Put the prepared tomatoes and fennel in a bowl. Toss with another one-third of the pesto. Transfer to the plate.
  3. Mix the rest of the pesto with the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and season. Drizzle over the tomatoes and fennel. Garnish with chopped nuts and fennel flowers if available. Enjoy!