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Burnt Onion and Aubergine Dip

by . Featured in COOK EAT REPEAT
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Introduction

I get many requests for this decidedly brown dip of silky savouriness, the first recipe in my chapter A Loving Defence of Brown Food in Cook, Eat, Repeat, so creamy that you would never guess it’s actually dairy-free and, indeed, vegan. True, anyone in the habit of changing nappies regularly might not find it the most appetising of sights, but one taste of it - full of rich, deep smokiness - and even those not immediately attracted come back for more.

I’ve called it a dip, but actually it lends itself as well to a spread on toast or a sauce for pasta; in this latter case, you’ll need to mix in some of the starchy pasta water when you toss the pasta with it, and I like to add some chilli flakes and a little extra squeeze of lemon, too. But as a dip, it is luscious, and if I have a lot of people round, I serve the Beetroot and Chickpea Dip and the Coriander and Jalapeño Salsa alongside; the pink, green and muted ochre like tonally-tinkered-with traffic lights on the table. But it’s a sensational solo act, so there is no need to add anything alongside save for some tortilla chips (if you can get blue corn ones, I urge you to) or whatever else you want to dip into it.

If you don't have a baking tray large enough for all the aubergines and onions and need to use two, then be prepared for the cooking time to be longer, and swap the trays around in the oven after about 40 minutes.

And if at all possible, I recommend using 3 aubergines as stipulated below, rather than say 2 that come to the same total weight. Obviously, if that choice isn't open to you, it does work with 2, but you will need to cut them into long quarters.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I get many requests for this decidedly brown dip of silky savouriness, the first recipe in my chapter A Loving Defence of Brown Food in Cook, Eat, Repeat, so creamy that you would never guess it’s actually dairy-free and, indeed, vegan. True, anyone in the habit of changing nappies regularly might not find it the most appetising of sights, but one taste of it - full of rich, deep smokiness - and even those not immediately attracted come back for more.

I’ve called it a dip, but actually it lends itself as well to a spread on toast or a sauce for pasta; in this latter case, you’ll need to mix in some of the starchy pasta water when you toss the pasta with it, and I like to add some chilli flakes and a little extra squeeze of lemon, too. But as a dip, it is luscious, and if I have a lot of people round, I serve the Beetroot and Chickpea Dip and the Coriander and Jalapeño Salsa alongside; the pink, green and muted ochre like tonally-tinkered-with traffic lights on the table. But it’s a sensational solo act, so there is no need to add anything alongside save for some tortilla chips (if you can get blue corn ones, I urge you to) or whatever else you want to dip into it.

If you don't have a baking tray large enough for all the aubergines and onions and need to use two, then be prepared for the cooking time to be longer, and swap the trays around in the oven after about 40 minutes.

And if at all possible, I recommend using 3 aubergines as stipulated below, rather than say 2 that come to the same total weight. Obviously, if that choice isn't open to you, it does work with 2, but you will need to cut them into long quarters.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Burnt Onion and Aubergine Dip
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Makes: approx. 600ml / 2½ cups

Metric Cups
  • 6 x 15ml tablespoons (90ml) olive oil
  • 3 onions (approx. 500g / 1lb)
  • 3 medium aubergines (approx. 250g / 9oz each)
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
  • 1½ teaspoons dried mint
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons - approx. 25 grams tahini
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 6 x 15ml tablespoons (90ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) olive oil
  • 3 onions (approx. 500g / 1lb)
  • 3 medium eggplants (approx. 250g / 9oz each)
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
  • 1½ teaspoons dried mint
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/425°F, and get out a large baking tray (not a tin with high sides, or the aubergine and onion will braise rather than roast); I use one of 42 x 33cm / 18 x 13 in, measuring from the outside of each shallow lip. Pour in the 90ml / ⅓ cup of olive oil.
  2. Quarter the onions, remove the skins, then cut each quarter in half lenghways, leaving (if you can) the onion attaced still at root end, and arrange on your baking tray.
  3. Halve the aubergines lenghways, then with a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes into the fleshy sides in a cross-hatched pattern, and add these, flesh side down, to the baking tray with the onions. Schmoosh everything about, really smearing the fleshy side of the aubergines with the oil, and making sure the onions are covered. Then turn the aubergines cut side up.
  4. Lop the top off the bulb of garlic so that the cloves are just peeking through, and wrap in foil, making a tightly sealed but baggy parcel. Add this to your baking tray if there's room, otherwise just pop it into the oven as it is, at the same time as putting in the onions and aubergines. Depending on the fierceness of your oven and the materials of your baking tray (the darker it is, the faster everything will brown), the onions and aubergines will take around an hour to cook to scorched softness. Check on them at about 40 minutes and throw in 90ml / ⅓ cup of water, and turn the onions where needed.
  5. As soon as the baking tray has gone into the oven, spoon the sea salt and dried mint into a cup, add the lemon juice, stir to mix, and leave while the onions and aubergines are cooking.
  6. When the onions are soft and browned and burnt at the edges, the aubergines darkened and floppy-fleshed, remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes, just to let them cool down a little before handling. Get the garlic out, unwrap it, and allow it to cool a little too.
  7. Transfer the onions, scraping every bit off the bottom of the tin, to a bowl that you can use with a stick blender. When you can touch the aubergines comfortably, use a spoon and your hands to get the flesh out of the charred skins, though you won't be able to separate it all, nor do you need to. Bits of charred tender skin will add to the taste. When you've got as much of the flesh out as you can comfortably manage, you can squeeze the skins in your hands over the bowl. If the tray is dry by now, add a little water from the kettle to sluice it out. Once the aubergines are in the bowl, squeeze the caramelised garlic out of its papery skin on top of them. Don't burn your hands, but do try and get out every last bit you can.
  8. Before you blitz everything together, add the waiting minty, salty lemon juice, tahini, ground cumin, sweet smoked paprika and the extra-virgin olive oil, and blend until smooth and silky.
  9. Taste for seasoning - it may need more smoked paprika - then decant into a bowl, and dip tortilla chips into it, spread it on toast, or eat it however you like.
  1. Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/425°F, and get out a large baking tray (not a tin with high sides, or the eggplant and onion will braise rather than roast); I use one of 42 x 33cm / 18 x 13 in, measuring from the outside of each shallow lip. Pour in the 90ml / ⅓ cup of olive oil.
  2. Quarter the onions, remove the skins, then cut each quarter in half lenghways, leaving (if you can) the onion attaced still at root end, and arrange on your baking tray.
  3. Halve the eggplants lenghways, then with a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes into the fleshy sides in a cross-hatched pattern, and add these, flesh side down, to the baking tray with the onions. Schmoosh everything about, really smearing the fleshy side of the eggplants with the oil, and making sure the onions are covered. Then turn the eggplants cut side up.
  4. Lop the top off the bulb of garlic so that the cloves are just peeking through, and wrap in foil, making a tightly sealed but baggy parcel. Add this to your baking tray if there's room, otherwise just pop it into the oven as it is, at the same time as putting in the onions and eggplants. Depending on the fierceness of your oven and the materials of your baking tray (the darker it is, the faster everything will brown), the onions and eggplants will take around an hour to cook to scorched softness. Check on them at about 40 minutes and throw in 90ml / ⅓ cup of water, and turn the onions where needed.
  5. As soon as the baking tray has gone into the oven, spoon the sea salt and dried mint into a cup, add the lemon juice, stir to mix, and leave while the onions and eggplants are cooking.
  6. When the onions are soft and browned and burnt at the edges, the eggplants darkened and floppy-fleshed, remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes, just to let them cool down a little before handling. Get the garlic out, unwrap it, and allow it to cool a little too.
  7. Transfer the onions, scraping every bit off the bottom of the tin, to a bowl that you can use with a stick blender. When you can touch the eggplants comfortably, use a spoon and your hands to get the flesh out of the charred skins, though you won't be able to separate it all, nor do you need to. Bits of charred tender skin will add to the taste. When you've got as much of the flesh out as you can comfortably manage, you can squeeze the skins in your hands over the bowl. If the tray is dry by now, add a little water from the kettle to sluice it out. Once the eggplants are in the bowl, squeeze the caramelised garlic out of its papery skin on top of them. Don't burn your hands, but do try and get out every last bit you can.
  8. Before you blitz everything together, add the waiting minty, salty lemon juice, tahini, ground cumin, sweet smoked paprika and the extra-virgin olive oil, and blend until smooth and silky.
  9. Taste for seasoning - it may need more smoked paprika - then decant into a bowl, and dip tortilla chips into it, spread it on toast, or eat it however you like.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare up to 5 days ahead, cover and refrigerate. Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving.

FREEZE:
Freeze in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge.

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare up to 5 days ahead, cover and refrigerate. Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving.

FREEZE:
Freeze in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge.

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What 2 Others have said

  • Really nice! I love dips and am adding this to my repertoire.

    Posted by Bobby_C on 9th October 2021
  • What a wonderful sandwich spread this will make!

    Posted by hollis517 on 8th October 2021
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