Melintzanosalata – or aubergine dip – has a place on every Greek table and at every Greek taverna, with the result that we consider it a purely Greek appetizer. But in reality it is a simplified version of baba ghanoush, a recipe which dominates the Middle East and has successfully travelled to Europe and America, becoming relatively well-known and popular internationally.
The most important difference between the classic Greek aubergine dip and baba ghanoush is tahini. Tahini adds depth and special flavour to an otherwise good melintzanosalata, as long as it’s not allowed to dominate the taste of the aubergine, which ought to stand out.
The main secret common to aubergine dip and baba ghanoush, is the smoky taste of aubergine. Without that, as far as I’m concerned it’s not allowed on my table. All the flavour of aubergine comes through this smoky scent, which gives it character and intensity.
This can only be achieved by searing the aubergines over a flame or burning charcoals and so the flavour we are looking for can’t be achieved unless you have a way to sear your aubergines. From then on everything else is a matter of balance. So, the ideal aubergine dip borrows from the baba ghanoush – a proven recipe for centuries – and embraces tahini for both its delicious flavour and its nutritional value.
My aubergine dip has a smoky but multi-layered flavour, mainly from the tahini, but also from the lemon juice and vinegar, which give acidity, garlic which gives a spicy pungency and honey which balances the aubergines’ bitterness!
But the next secret here is to master the delicate balance between these ingredients, with the smoked aubergine as the mainstay, and without the other ingredients stealing the show, but simply enriching the flavour.
So have a look at the video we made and follow the instructions below to get the best Greek aubergine and tahini dip you’ve ever tasted!
This is a really easy recipe as long as you can sear the aubergine properly on a naked flame. It will take you 15 minutes to deal with aubergines and a further 10 minutes to complete the mixture.
Take care not to go overboard with the garlic! The flavour must come from the aubergine rather than the spices.
2 aubergines, approx. 300 gr.
35 g Tahini (about 2 tablespoons)
½ clove garlic
10 ml lemon juice
5 ml honey
10 ml vinegar ( white or red wine vinegar)
10 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. flat leaf parsley
1. Sear the aubergines:
Place the aubergines over the flame from a gas hob or from a culinary torch or from a camping gas burner or, of course, burning charcoal. Note for those who do not have any of these, the alternative is to use the grill of the oven or the ring of a non-ceramic hob, but you will never get the intense smoky taste we seek. So it’s worth investing in a culinary torch.
Turn the aubergines every so often until almost the entire surface of the aubergine skin burns and shrivels. You should be able to pierce the aubergine with a fork by now. This will take you about 4 minutes for each aubergine.
2. Peel and chop the aubergines:
Once the aubergines have cooled, put them on a chopping board and with a sharp knife remove the blackened skins. Use kitchen paper to rub off small pieces left behind. Alternatively, do this under running water in the sink. Don’t worry if some blackened little bits remain – they’ll add to the flavour of the aubergine dip.
Now chop up the aubergine flesh.
3. Prepare the tahini:
Put about 2 tablespoons of tahini into a bowl, pour a spoonful of water in and whisk by hand. You will see the colour lighten a little. Now add another tablespoon of water so it starts to loosen some more and become paler in colour.
Next add the lemon juice, continuing to whisk. Add the olive oil and then the honey and make sure you whisk right into the bottom of the bowl. Overall we are talking about no more than 2 minutes.
4. Combining the aubergine:
Now that the base of the tahini is ready, add the aubergine and whisk well to make sure it’s thoroughly combined with the tahini.
5. Finish the aubergine dip:
Now that you’ve actually made the mix with the basic flavours, you can add the ingredients that will give you the final flavour and balance. You can now add the amounts according to your personal taste. So now add the garlic, vinegar and of course salt and pepper, stirring, testing and correcting all the time. You could add more lemon juice or olive oil if you prefer. However, avoid adding too much garlic because it distracts from the taste of the aubergine.
Finally garnish with the parsley which will give colour, freshness and a light crispness. Stir and serve immediately or alternatively put it into the fridge, covered with clingfilm, making sure it touches the surface of the aubergine dip – this way no air remains above it to dry it out.