There is no Cypriot or Greek “meze” menu without this amazing aubergine (eggplant) dip. It reminds me of summer nights by the beach with a chilled bottle of white wine or “Ouzo” on the rocks. Thinking about it, I do need a holiday! Cypriot cuisine has influences from the Middle East. “Tahini” must be one of my all time favourite ingredients so, in the Cypriot version of “melitzanosalata”, the roasted aubergine flesh is mixed with tahini paste. This addition makes it creamier and absolutely delicious.
My version is somewhere between the Greek and Cypriot “melitzanosalata”. I spiced things up with some cumin seeds, added sesame seeds, tomatoes and fresh coriander leaves. I absolutely LOVE it. I serve it with some crunchy oven roasted pita bread, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. It’s the best ever party food.
- 3 large aubergines (eggplants)
- 2 Tbs olive oil, plus a drizzle to garnish
- 4 Tbs lemon juice
- 2 Tbs tahini paste
- 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, plus a bit more to garnish
- 1 small garlic clove, pressed
- 1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- 1 ripe, medium tomato, deseeded and diced
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 Tbs toasted pine nuts
For the toasted pita
- 2 pita bread (Cypriot pita or Arabic)
- Olive oil for brushing
- 1-2 tsp dried oregano for sprinkling
Heat the grill to high. Prick each aubergine with a fork 8-10 times. Grill aubergines over high heat, turning 3-4 times, about 20 minutes, until skin is black and flesh is soft. The aubergines will feel very soft and the skin will look charred. You can also use your oven grill for this. It may take longer for the aubergines to cook. Cool to room temperature.
Once cool, peel the aubergines and discard the skin. Put flesh in a bowl. Some people like to remove the seeds (if any) but I don’t think it’s necessary. Take a fork and mash the flesh. Don’t do this in a food processor. It’s much nicer to feel small chunks of the aubergine than having a puree of mashed flesh.
Add the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini paste, cumin seeds and garlic. Keep working the aubergines with the fork, mixing the ingredients, until you have a kind of smooth mixture. You will still have chunks of aubergine flesh and that’s fine.
Mix in the coriander, tomatoes and spring onion. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make the pita toasts: Preheat oven to 160 C. Split each pita in half and open it up like a book. Place pieces cut side up and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with the dried oregano. Put on an oven rack and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and crunchy. Cool uncovered to room temperature. You can make the pita toasts up to 24 hours in advance. Once cooled store them in a plastic zip-lock bag.
To serve: Spread the “Melitzanosalata” on a plate. Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, extra cumin seeds and the pine nuts. Break the pita toasts and dive in. It’s delicious.