It’s not alchemy, but trying to turn base ingredients into the elusive gold perfection of a taste memory with nothing to work on but hearsay and supposition and only a dishes’ name sees me often in the kitchen pacing about, reading, thinking, scribbling, chopping, emptying out spice drawers then walking away to do something on the new to do list that I’ve been given by Bee and returning later, like a cat pacing suspiciously around it’s prey.
My fascination with the aubergine has taken a new turn this week. And with it, comes something I’m now going to have to add to the ongoing experiment book. It’s called kashke bimjebob, josh and kajagoogo, koj and betjeman, jok and bitumen or, I don’t really know, and my friend Sam Stowell who introduced me to this dish said he gets laughed at every time he orders it in the restaurant because he can’t pronounce it either.
The version here, my first attempt is delicious. But I think the chefs in the restaurant must have added some kind of special voodoo to theirs that they’re not going to tell me in a hurry. This is close, but not quite. The next attempt may involve burning the aubergine skin on a flame to make it smokier, toasting the walnuts and perhaps almost doubling the garlic. And, and, and.
Traditionally this is made using whey. While this is pretty hard to buy, you can easily make it yourself by filling a small muslin with natural yoghurt and draining it overnight into a bowl in the fridge. This will also give you some cream cheese as a by product. Failing that, you can use natural yoghurt as is. I added a splash of keffir to mine as well.
But don’t let that stop you making this version and carrying on with your adjustments. A good aubergine dip is a winner anyway. The bread is easy to make, and the dip, served alongside some halved cherry plum tomatoes dressed with a little oil, salt and vinegar made a fresh and wholesome lunch on what was a rather hot day.
Rather more olive oil than you think you need
A pinch or two of salt
5 cloves of garlic
2tbsp natural yoghurt
100ml keffir or whey
2 brown onions, sliced and diced
A handful or two of walnuts, plus a few extra to dress
2-3tbsp dried mint
A couple of spring onions
For the bread:
500g plain flour
14g fresh yeast (or 7g dried)
A large pinch of salt
Sesame seeds to dress
Make the bread by mixing together the yeast, sugar and water until it’s fully dissolved. Add the flour and salt and knead for ten minutes, or do it in a stand mixer for five.
Shape in to a ball and put in an oiled bowl with a tea-towel over it for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size. This depends on how hot it is in your kitchen…
Meanwhile, heat the oven to high, about 200c or gas 8. Pierce the aubergines with a knife so they don’t pop in the oven, put them on an oven tray, drizzle with oil and a sprinkle of salt and cook for about 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into eight balls, cover and leave for another half an hour before rolling out into flatbreads. Poke all over with your fingers to make dimples, brush with water and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.
Cook for around 25 minutes until starting to turn golden then keep warm in tea-towels while you get everything else together.
Sauté the onions in some olive oil until turning golden then add the garlic and mint and cook for a minute or two longer. Season well.
Blitz the walnuts to a crumb in a food processor or blender then add the onion mix and aubergine, having chopped off its stem.
Add the yoghurt, or whey or whatever you’re using and blend well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more of whatever you feel it needs.
Serve the dip with more olive oil, a scattering of walnuts and a sprinkle of dried mint and chopped spring onion if you fancy.