Smoked aubergine dip
After a little hiatus from writing recipes, I am back and ready to pick up where I left off with a gem of a recipe.
Mirza Ghasemi is a probably one of my favorite Iranian dishes. I remember the first time I ate this delightful dish. I had never tasted anything like it. The smoky aubergine, extraordinary amount of garlic, tomatoes and eggs were comforting and moreish. I found I couldn’t stop eating it, scooping up this warm dip-style appetiser with Persian flat-bread (Sangak or Barbari – as pictured). And I still do the same when people serve it at their homes or when we go to our favourite Iranian restaurants.
As a family, we were quite late to the party with Mirza Ghasemi being one of our go-to dishes. The dish is from the Northern and Caspian Sea region of Iran (specifically Gilan), where there tends to be more vegetarian dishes such as Kal Kabab and Baghali Gatogh. My mother and father had left Iran to travel west in the 60’s and 70’s and had brought with them their family favourite recipes, which tended to be meat orientated. So it didn’t feature in our lives until I was a teenager. As our Iranian community diversified in the 90’s with friends and extended family being from different regions such as Gilan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Esfehan, so did our dishes.
Mirza Ghasemi is not just eaten as an appetiser with bread but also as a main dish served with rice, therefore feel free to upgrade it to a regular main meal in your household. The recipe below would provide two generous portions or four humble portions to be eaten with rice. To make it heartier, make four holes in the Mirza Ghasemi, while it is simmering, and crack four eggs into the holes. Then place a lid on top to cook the eggs to your liking. Otherwise serve it, as I love it, with a platter of fresh herbs, feta and flat-bread (as pictured above).
If you are vegan then leave out the eggs and replace with scrambled style silken tofu. Equally delicious!
- 3 large aubergines (or 5 medium aubergines)
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion (finely chopped)
- 1 medium whole garlic (peeled and cloves crushed)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 3 medium plum tomatoes (chopped)
- 3 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tsp Maple Syrup or Sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 large free-range eggs (beaten) - plus more if eating as a main course
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- Chopped fresh chives and/or crushed walnuts (to garnish)
- Smoke the aubergines whole over an open flame (gas hob or BBQ) until blackened and the flesh has softened. The idea is to get the smoky flavour into the final dish. Alternatively, grill the aubergines to get the same effect - charred skin and soft flesh. Place the cooked aubergine in a large dish and cover with clingfilm for about 10 to 20 minutes. This will help when peeling the charred skin off.
- Peel the skin / scoop the aubergine flesh out of the skins and leave to one side.
- Put a frying pan on a low / medium heat and add your olive oil and your chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion until it has turned translucent / caramelised. Then add the garlic, gently stirring into the onion mixture making sure the garlic cooks slowly and does not burn. Then add and stir in the turmeric.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until tomatoes have softened and broken down.
- Stir in the aubergine flesh and mash the mixture gently. Add the tomato purée, water, maple syrup and seasoning and cook for approximately 10 mins, stirring gently now and then.
- Make a few holes in mixture and add the beaten eggs. Once eggs start to gain a little colour and firm a little, stir them in until evenly distributed through aubergine mixture. Let the mixture simmer gently on a low heat and with a lid on the pan for a further 10 mins.
- [If you are serving as a main dish, feel free to bulk up with extra eggs, cracked and poached in the Mirza Ghasemi while gently simmering - cover with a lid to cook the egg through. See notes above].