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Nigella Lawson's Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip for "I Heart Cooking Clubs"

Posted Sep 17 2009 12:00am
Our new weekly cooking event, I Heart Cooking Clubs, is kicking off with the wonderful English cook, Nigella Lawson, and this week's theme is Party Treats. For my first IHCC recipe, I wanted to find a reasonably healthy appetizer, (or pupu as we call them here in Hawaii). Now before you jump in and tell me, I do realize that Nigella is not really known for her healthy recipes nor does she like low-fat cooking, but good, balanced healthy recipes are out there sprinkled throughout her cookbooks and on the Internet. An example is this recipe for a Persian/Iranian Eggplant, Mint and Yogurt Dip, (also known as Badenjan Dip) from her "Feast" cookbook. This dip is just one of many great balanced recipes under the "A Mezze Feast For Ten to Twenty" section in the book. The only changes I made to "healthify" it were to replace the regular Greek yogurt with non-fat Greek yogurt, still rich and creamy and undetectable in a dip like this, and to serve it with some veggies and whole-grain crackers in addition to the flat breads Nigella recommends. 


This recipe can be found in Nigella Lawson's "" (page 437 in my version) or as Badenjan Dip on the Food Network site (here)

Nigella says: "This recipe is a variation on a dish I read about in Najmieh Batmanglij's "New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies". It's hard to ascribe the origins of a recipe, or explain how I came to make something the way I do, as so often the recipe that appears here may be merely suggested by another I've read somewhere, while diverging from it. I find it impossible to cook without fiddling: which means all my recipes are refracted through the prism of my own tastes and prejudices. I expect you correspondingly, to do the same."


Eggplant, Mint & Yogurt Dip (Badenjan Dip)
Feast, Nigella Lawson
(Makes about 2 1/4 cups of dip)

3 small eggplants (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) to make about 1 1/4 cups when roasted, pulped and sieved
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1 large onion, finely diced
3 fat cloves garlic, minced or grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, to garnish
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, to garnish
Dribble extra-virgin olive oil, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Prick the eggplants with a fork and put them on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The insides of the eggplants should be soft and they should feel squishy to the touch. Allow to cool before peeling and mashing them, then leave the pulp in a sieve to drain.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and peel and finely chop the onion, adding the pieces to the pan. Peel the garlic cloves and mince or grate into the onion. Or just put the onion and garlic together in a processor first and blitz. Cook until golden and then add the drained eggplant mush, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a further 5 minutes or so over a gentle heat, stirring frequently. Take off the heat and turn into a bowl to cool and season with salt and pepper.

Add the yogurt to the cooled eggplant mixture together with the saffron in its now golden water, stirring together well, and then turn into a bowl and sprinkle over the mint, toasted pine nuts, and a dribble of oil.


Notes/Results: Very good--it is similar to baba ghanoush but with more layers and depth of flavor. Everything works well here; the lightly caramelized onions and garlic, the roasted eggplant, the tangy yogurt, heady saffron, the cool, herbal mint and the crunch of the toasted pine nuts. Although quite easy, this isn't a quick, throw it together dip as it needs some time for all the steps--but it isn't a lot of effort. (Chopping the onions and garlic together in the food processor speeds up the process). Make sure to get the onions cooked well and lightly caramelized as you want that sweetness in the mix. I liked it as Nigella wrote the recipe but felt it needed a slight something so I ended up squeezing in the juice from a lemon and it was just right, brightening it up. 


I judge my appetizers and dips by the "hover factor" which means at a party, would you find yourself hovering over the bowl, scarfing it up until you start feeling guilty because you have eaten too much of it? The answer in this case is yes--so this is a keeper recipe for me! Part of the leftovers of this dip are going into whole-wheat mini pitas with veggies for some healthy lunches. 


Want to join a fun and flexible foodie event? Check out I Heart Cooking Clubs here. 

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