Whether you know it as eggplant or aubergine, these purple beauties are one of the most versatile and picnic-friendly vegetables.
They keep well in the fridge so you can always have one on hand. Eggplant also beefs up so many dishes and salads beautifully without overwhelming them. They are also a fabulous addition to make ahead salads as they don’t go soggy or lacklustre in a pre-prepared salad.
You can stuff them to serve hot or cold, they hold their form well on a kebab and when grilled, are a great addition to a sandwich, antipasto or mezze plate.
They even make a great burger substitute for vegetarians and vegans.
But where the magic happens with eggplant is Baba Ganoush. The deliciously smoky Middle Eastern eggplant dip which, along with its legumey cousin hummus, and any dips containing beetroot, are in the upper echelon of picnic and vegan-friendly dips.
Packing hearty and robust dips such as baba ganoush is one of the best picnic menu tips for a simple yet delicious picnic.
What do you Serve Eggplant Dip With? Baba Ganoush Picnic Ideas
Easy to make, the smoky eggplant dip is an excellent addition to any picnic backpack or hamper. Make it the centrepiece of a crudités vegetable platter, or serve it mezze or antipasto style with fresh bread or dipping pitas.
It also makes a great sandwich spread – think roast Mediterranean vegetables such as roasted peppers, robust greens and baba ganoush on a crusty baguette.
We also love it as a BBQ accompaniment. Serve it as a side dish to seasoned BBQ lamb or chicken kebabs or some quality handmade sausages.
Baba Ganoush Recipe
Baba Ganoush Ingredients
1 large (or two small) globe or Italian aubergines (eggplant)
1 tablespoon Tahini
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic freshly minced or roasted
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes or powder (optional)
Serve baba ganoush with any of the following garnishes:
- A sprinkle of sweet or smoked paprika or cayenne pepper if you like a little heat.
- Sesame seeds, crushed pistachio nuts or toasted pine nuts
- Chopped cilantro or parsley
- Pomegranate seeds make a lovely colour splash and add a touch of tart sweetness.
- Whichever you choose, finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
How to Make Baba Ganoush
To Grill or Roast – Can I Roast the Eggplant for Baba Ganoush?
Traditionally aubergines were roasted over coals or open flame to blacken the skin, slowly softening the centre until the aubergine collapses.
How to Grill Eggplant for Baba Ganoush
My preferred method is slow-cooked over coals to achieve a maximum smokiness but know this is not always possible. An outdoor gas grill or even gas stovetop is another easy way to blacken and soften the eggplant.
If using coals, wait until the coals are hot and smoky and most of the flame has died down (you want to blacken not burn). If using gas, have the burner on high,
Turn the whole aubergine over the flame or coals with tongs until the skin is charred and flaky and the centre soft. The eggplant will look like it has deflated when it is ready.
How to Roast Eggplant for Baba Ganoush
Another way is to roast in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 425 ℉ | 220℃.
Cut the aubergine in half longways. If the aubergine is especially big – quarter longways. I don’t bother removing the stalk as it will be removed with skin later.
Some people like to make slits in the skin, but I prefer to leave the skin intact ( it makes it easier to peel later) and place some slits in the flesh if cut in half. (don’t bother if quartered).
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with quality sea salt and place on a baking sheet. You may wish to turn them during cooking to ensure the skin chars and flesh softens.
Depending on the size of the aubergine, allow at least 30 minutes for the aubergine to soften and get that lovely roasted finish. The skin should also have a wrinkled charred finish which means it will be easy to peel.
Whether you roast or grill, remove from the heat and allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the skin with either a spoon or knife.
I find if you grab the top end of the skin (or the stem), make a small cut in the flesh and simply run a knife along the skin, it should peel away with no fuss leaving no flesh behind.
Allow the flesh to sit in a sieve or colander for a little to drain any excess moisture off – Aubergines hold a lot of moisture, and you don’t want a runny baba ganoush. Keep the liquid in case you wish to adjust consistency later.
Place the aubergine flesh in a bowl or a food processor. I prefer not to use a food processor as I don’t like to over blend which can result in a runny aubergine dip. I think a good baba ganoush still has some texture.
If the aubergine is cooked well, you should be able to roughly chop it and mash it with a fork. If it is still a little fibrous, I find a quick blitz with a stick blender is sufficient.
Add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, salt and optional cayenne or smoked paprika and mix/mash well or give it a quick pulse with the food processor or stick blender.
Important to note- As every eggplant will be a different size, add the above ingredients incrementally to taste and to achieve the desired consistency.
I find the tahini, garlic, and lemon can overwhelm the smoky aubergine flavours very quickly. Also, too much liquid such as olive oil and lemon juice can make your baba ganoush too runny.
You can always add more seasoning; you can’t take it away.
Place the baba ganoush in the fridge to cool which will allow the flavours to develop further (this is why you need to be careful with the garlic, especially if freshly minced), and the dip should thicken a little more.
If you are having a bbq at home, I also like warm baba ganoush made fresh straight from the coals. It’s a lovely addition to grilled meats and warm pita bread.
Store in your preferred container or serving dish, sprinkle with garnish and drizzle with olive oil.
How long will Baba Ganoush Last in the Refrigerator?
If stored in an airtight container, baba ganoush will last around 3-4 days in the fridge.
Can You Freeze Baba Ganoush?
Yes you can freeze baba ganoush. It will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For the best consistency after freezing, thaw for around 15 minutes or until you can break it apart by hand. Place the chunks on a fine sieve over a bowl to finish thawing. Some people like to use a strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin.
This will allow any water from ice crystals to drain away leaving you with the best consistency and flavours.