Anolon Academy

How to char an Eggplant

By Chef Tom Walton

As a young child, one of my favorite things to do in summer was to climb the apricot tree in my neighbours backyard. Making my way through the branches to the very top, a place usually reserved only for the birds, to collect the sweetest, sun ripened fruit.  

One Sunday morning as I collected my breakfast, the smell of something filled the air. It made me stop and smile. What was that incredible smell?  I quickly picked my fruit with excitement and rushed to where the smell was coming from. 

Eggplants were being cooked over coals on the BBQ in preparation for lunch that afternoon. The skins charred and blistered and steam bursting from the flesh as they collapsed. I was five years old and this was going to be my introduction to what has become my favourite vegetable. 

Once cooked, we took them into the kitchen and quickly plunged them into a bowl of water so we could remove the charred skin with ease, revealing a sweet, silky flesh that had been imparted with the gentlest flavor of smoke. We drained the cooked flesh on paper towel for half an hour before chopping it with a knife. “Some people blend it,” Nadeema, my Lebanese neighbour, teaches me, “ but it should be chopped and have texture so you can really taste the flavour of the eggplant”. A simple yet important lesson taught to me at that young age. We place the chopped flesh into a bowl ready to be mixed.   

Already that morning, Nadeema had made the toum (an intoxicating garlic paste, somewhat like mayonnaise, made with garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon) and the hummus for our afternoon meal. “It must be made in this order,” she tells me. First the toum is prepared, as it is needed in the other dishes. Then, while the eggplants are being charred, the hummus is prepared. The slow cooked, soft chickpeas are blended with some more toum, tahini, lemon, warm water, and salt, and a little paprika sprinkled once it is in the serving dish. “some people add olive oil,” she again tells me, “ but I don’t”. 

I was taught some very important lessons that morning, much more than just what we were making. Now it was time to make the babaganoush. Into the chopped eggplant flesh we folded some toum, tahini, salt, lemon and mixed spice. “Taste it, what does it need?” Nadeema asks me. A little more lemon and salt are added and it is ready. I grab a spoon eager to get stuck in but Nadeema stops me. She fetches 2 baskets and hands one to me. 

We are back to forage in the garden; picking the parsley, mint, cucumbers and tomatoes for the tabouleh. 

Baba ganoush 

Great served as part of a meal with fish, chicken lamb or vegetables. This also makes a great sandwich filling or snack. 

Ingredients 

  • 3 eggplant  
  • 100g tahini 
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Juice 1 lemon 
  • Salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle 
  • Pomegranate seeds, to serve 

Method 

Place the eggplants on a pre-heated bbq or grill and cook until the eggplant is collapsing and their skin charred. 

Plunge them into a bowl of cold water and quickly remove the charred skin. Drain the flesh well on a lot of paper towel. This can take up to 1 hour but is important to remove extra juices and water that can make the final product too wet.  

Chop the flesh quite finely with a knife and place in a mixing bowl. Fold through the tahini, garlic, lemon and salt to taste. 

Spread into a serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and scatter some pomegranate seed over the top. Store covered in the fridge.