My grandparent’s kitchen in Newcastle was either full of cigarette smoke, the smell of Craster kippers being cooked for breakfast or a Sunday roast in the oven while a Sarah Lee frozen chocolate gateaux defrosted on the side.
My family called aubergines ‘garden egg’, probably from when they lived in Nigeria, and that’s what I knew this dish as until I started blending it and adding a couple more ingredients to turn it into baba ganoush. I haven’t done it this way for ages so had to make it.
I consulted my mum on the exact recipe, and when I had a spoonful of it, scooped out of the dish with freshly made pitta bread, because as my mum said, “It has to be eaten with pitta bread”, it was like stepping into a taste time machine. It was exactly as I remembered it. And that’s the beauty of simple dishes like this with few ingredients. They are hard to mess up, and when you are cooking something simple from your childhood it’s a real pleasure to get it spot on.
I’d thoroughly recommend making your own pitta bread too. It’s so quick and easy and doesn’t need much kneading or rising time and the results, as always, are so much better than the shop bought stuff.
For the ‘garden egg’
3 cloves of garlic
Pinch of salt
For the pitta bread
300g spelt flour (or plain bread flour if you prefer)
130ml warm water
5g dry yeast
A large pinch of salt
1tbsp date syrup (you can use sugar, but I’d rather not when possible)
Heat the oven to 200c and roast the aubergines for about 30 minutes until soft and cooked. Leave them to cool on the side while you make the bread.
Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and syrup in a bowl and slowly add the water, a little at a time, kneading it in as you go.
Once all the water is incorporated and you have an elastic dough, not too crumbly and not too sticky, knead it well on the bench for a few minutes.
Put back in the bowl, cover it with a towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into six and roll out into pitta bread shapes.
Heat a griddle pan or cast iron skillet until super hot then cook the bread one at a time, flipping over when it starts to brown a little. It’s ideal if you have a gas hob because when each bread is cooked, just put it straight on the flame and it puffs up like a balloon.
Repeat until you’ve made all the bread and wrap them in a towel to keep warm.
Finely chop the garlic, then chop up the aubergine and mix together with some olive oil and salt to season. Put in a large bowl and serve with the bread. It’s sublime.