Aubergine caviar

This eggplant caviar recipe is a great way to squeeze every ounce of flavour out of an aubergine. It’s extremely easy to make if you have a food processor (and only a little more difficult if you don’t; I used to make it when I was a student using a large knife to chop everything very finely instead). Although the amount of garlic in this recipe looks a bit alarming, the garlic in the finished dip is roasted, so it’s very mellow and sweet. You won’t find it overpowering.

Traditionally called ‘caviar’ or ‘poor man’s caviar’, this is not at all fishy, nor very similar to caviar. I think it got the name from the days when aubergines were much seedier; those seeds have a lovely texture a little (if you are imagining hard) like fish roe. Today, aubergines are usually propagated without the seeds, which many people do not enjoy.

This is a particularly good accompaniment for lamb, and it’s really, really good with yesterday’s kofta kebab. The roast aubergine has a wonderful natural sweetness, brought out by the raw parsley, which seems made to be paired with hot lamb. Try it some time.

To serve four as a mezze you’ll need:

2 large purple aubergines (eggplants)
10 fat cloves garlic
1 large bunch parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut both aubergines in half lengthways. Don’t bother salting and disgorging it – the same growing techniques which have made modern aubergines near-seedless have also made sure they aren’t bitter. Peel the garlic, lay the whole cloves on the cut side of the aubergines, and wrap each aubergine half with its garlic tightly in tin foil. Bake on a sheet at 180° C for 45 minutes, until the garlic and aubergines are very soft.

Peel the skin from the aubergines and discard it. Use a food processor or very sharp knife to finely mince the garlic, aubergine flesh and parsley. Stir in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve at room temperature.

Aubergine caviar will keep in the fridge for a few days. Try it on its own on toast for a quick lunch.

9 Replies to “Aubergine caviar”

  1. thank you, thank you for introducing us to “aubergine caviar”. i’ve never heard of it but we are HUGE baba ganouj fans – this must be a close “relative”. i shall try it as soon as i can find some decent eggplants. sadly they are coming in from mexico at this time of year and are ghastly – not to mention over-priced!
    cheers! Ellen, Canada

  2. Hi
    It was a pleasure to find your recipes and to read them in the way you write them… It gave me a photograph of you…
    Intelligent, excelent mood, lovely and brillant.
    Congratulations, gastronomy is an Art, besides being vital for our lives. You do it marvellous

  3. I have tried to recreate this several times after having a good experience with it in a restaurant in Muswell Hill. I got close but the way that you suggest is very elegant.
    For a twist you can add one red pepper and bake it along with the aubergines. Dill goes well too alongside the flat leaf parsley.
    I came to your site by random search but I am enjoying looking around a lot!

  4. Peppers and dill are a very enticing-sounding addition, Anon – temptingly Turkish. I’ll give it a shot next time I make this and report back.

  5. Hi, I made this last night and followed your recommendation of not salting or draining the eggplant. And the result is extremely bitter and frankly inedible. At first I thought I added too much parsley but I believe the problem lies with the eggplant.

  6. Hi Anon – you’ll be the Livejournal person who had problems with this recipe, I think – I don’t have an account there, but I saw the discussion. I can absolutely, hand-on-heart assure you that modern aubergines *if ripe* do not need salting for bitterness. There are a few recipes here where I do recommend you salt an aubergine, but in every instance it’s only to reduce the water content. If you’re not happy that your aubergines aren’t completely ripe, they’re probably not worth cooking with anyway.

    Try an experiment in the summer, when you can be sure of your produce – cook one aubergine dish twice, once salted and drained, once not. You’ll find a small difference in texture (and the salted one will be saltier), but should find none in bitterness. I hope you give this recipe a roll again. I blame your aubergine too, but I don’t think salting it would have saved it!

    A little bragging is in order – no less a being than Jean-Christophe Novelli links to this recipe and recommends it. I’m pretty chuffed.

  7. Worked perfectly, even with sub-standard aubergines (I did salt them). Roasted garlic makes it special. I used coriander instead of parsley and it’s delicious.

  8. This can be wrapped in thinly sliced smoked salmon and (if you can be bothered) glazed with lemony aspic (stock, lemon juice, gelatin). It makes a nice meat and wheat free cocktail snack. If making the caviar for the purpose, add a little lemon zest. Can be decorated with a little actual caviar (or lumpfish roe) as a humorous touch. I only drain aubergines for tempura except for home-grown ones which can get bitter.

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