It’s crazy how moving to a different area of the same city can change your experience of the place completely. Before we bought this house, we were renting in an area of Bristol that we had been told is quite sought after. Having lived in London – a buzzing multicultural hub – for years, we weren’t that convinced about living in a sleepy, one dimensional suburb, but the rental we found was pet-friendly with a big sprawling garden and it was close to Duncan’s family, so we went for it.
Sadly, it never really felt like us and, being the only foreigner in the entire street, I was quite miserable living there, to be honest. Initially, I put it down to tired decor and a bit of cultural shock after 4 years of living under the blue Greek skies, but the feeling never quite passed and it wasn’t until we moved here that I realised how that area wasn’t where we should have ever lived in the first place!
This house is a complete opposite. We love it here and in a space of merely a month we already feel much more connected to the local community here than we did in 1½ years at the old place. We are a short bus or bike journey away from the centre of town yet there are quite a lot of green areas on our doorstep where we can run. The demographic on our street alone is much more varied and multicultural and that’s reflected in the types of grocery stores that are just a stone’s throw away.
My local grocery store carries lots of fantastic fresh produce, spices, dry pulses and loads of Turkish, Lebanese, Palestinian and other Middle Eastern products that I am slowly exploring, one by one. I already got to know all of the staff as I am at that store daily. They sell fresh Turkish pide bread there and I’m totally addicted to it. I grill it on a hot griddle pan, lightly coated in olive oil, and then season with salt and pul biber (mild Turkish chilli). It’s soooo good that I have to ration it out to myself or else I can see myself doubling in size in no time at all…
I am also a fan of aubergine (or eggplant) dips and aubergines in general and I recently discovered a new thing that allows me to whip up a perfect accompaniment for my grilled bread in no time at all. The miracle ingredient is smoked aubergine flesh sold in glass jars, which, when seasoned with garlic, tahini and pomegranate molasses transforms into a delightful, smoky dip inspired by a Middle Eastern classic – baba ganoush. I have it alongside hummus, spicy green olives, a mountain of green salad and a few wedges of grilled Turkish pide. It’s my lunch of dreams at the moment…
Even if you aren’t able to find smoked aubergine flesh where you live, you can still make this dip very easily. All you need to make your own smoked aubergine is a gas burner and a fork. And please do not let the unappetising colour of this dip make you miss out on its delicious flavour. Whenever I place it on the table for my guests, it is certainly the last dish anyone reaches for and it’s usually after asking me what’s in it. But once the smoky, nutty and garlicky notes hit their tastebuds, they are truly sold and keep on coming back for more.
- 480 ml / 460 g / 2 cups of smoked aubergine pulp* (or 2 medium aubergines)
- 1-2 garlic cloves, adjust to your liking
- ½-¾ tsp level salt, more to taste (½ tsp if you used jarred pulp, which often contains salt)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 heaped tbsp tahini
- 1½ tsp pomegranate molasses (or more lemon juice)
- ¼ tsp ground cumin (optional)
- a handful of pomegranate seeds, to garnish
- fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, to garnish (optional)
- If using aubergines rather than a ready smoked pulp (see below), pierce the aubergines with a knife so that the steam can escape whilst they are cooking. If you have a gas hob, switch the burner on and place an aubergine (one at a time) directly on the burner. Using metal tongs or a fork, turn the aubergine every 2-3 minutes so that a new area of skin is exposed to a naked flame with each turn. Allow them to sit on the burner for as long as it takes the skin to blacken, blister and the inside to collapse significantly.
- As soon as each aubergine is done, place it in a large bowl and cover it with a tight fitting lid or a piece of cling film so that the skin is easier to take off.
- While the aubergines are resting, chop the garlic roughly and then smash it with a pinch of salt and the blade of a knife until you get a fine paste. Place it in a small bowl and cover with 2 tsp of lemon juice and set aside – this will mellow out the garlic’s flavour.
- Once the aubergines are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out all the flesh using a spoon. Place the flesh on a sieve and leave for a bit (the longer the better) to allow all the excess liquid to drain away.
- Using a fork, mash the aubergine flesh and mix in salt, tahini, pomegranate molasses, cumin (if using) and mellowed out garlic.
- To serve, transfer the dip in a bowl, garnish it with pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil, if using. It tastes best the day after it has been made.