A Lebanese feast of vegetables, pulses, herbs and spices, 276pp.
by Mona Hamadeh
Constable and Robinson, London, 2015
Cooking on page 32–33
Poor John had three diplomatic postings in Lebanon—one for language training and two for work. I was along for the second work one. While it wasn’t the best time to be there—during the civil war in the early 1980s—it didn’t hamper our chances to enjoy sensational Lebanese food. The best tabouli, hummus and shish taouk (a chicken dish) I’ve ever had were in Beirut.
So I’m always a sucker for Lebanese cookbooks. This one did not disappoint.
Smoky aubergines with lemon and garlic dressing
2 large aubergines
1 small to medium onion, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
220g (2 small) tomatoes, chopped
1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level tsp salt
a little chopped parsley, to garnish
a little olive oil, to drizzle
lemon wedges to serve
For a smoky taste, roast the whole aubergines on the flame of a gas hob for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are soft.
When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin then rinse under a cold tap to remove any remaining skin.
Chop the aubergines and place in a bowl. Add the onion, lemon juice, tomatoes, garlic and salt.
Turn out onto a serving dish, sprinkle parsley over the top and drizzle with olive oil.
This dish is supposed to have the lovely smoky flavour that cooking over a flame gives, but if you only have an electric hob, you can cook the aubergines in an oven preheated to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 for 20 minutes. Prick the aubergines with a fork before roasting.
How it played out
I was too busy with other things to stand at the stove and roast the eggplants (aubergines) over a flame, turning occasionally, so I popped them in a hot oven instead. They took a little more than 30 minutes to soften.
Then I pretty much followed the rest of the recipe, using parsley and lemon from the garden, and cherry tomatoes and half a largish red onion. Too easy.
I’ve probably already mentioned that my mother, a home economist, hated eggplant. I have no idea why.
Perhaps she never had anything as tasty as this recipe or the eggplant dip I made a couple of years ago from another page 32. While that recipe wasn’t as nice as my usual Middle Eastern babaganoush dip, I have to say that this salad is excellent and well worth making often.
News flash: Since making this the first time, I’ve made it two more times. Once I had to use limes instead of lemons. Both versions are excellent! It’s a really, really wonderful salad and might be a great way to convert anyone who thinks they don’t like eggplant. I’ve already bought two more eggplants so I make make it again this week.
I’ve not yet written about Lebanon on my travel blog, but I have done several posts on Syria, which shares a border. One of my favourite places in Syria, where we also lived, is the Crusader castle, the Krak des Chevaliers.