2 eggplants
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon black vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tahini
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
¼ teaspoon salt
150g firm tofu
1 tablespoon neutral oil such as sunflower
chilli peanut oil, to taste (see recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped chives
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup neutral oil such as sunflower or peanut
½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (20g) chilli flakes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 star anise

Burning the skin of a whole eggplant while the flesh steams inside gives a delicious charred flavour essential to dishes such as babaganoush. It doesn’t matter how burnt the skin gets since you remove it; the eggplant is done when it feels like it is collapsing on the inside. If the eggplant isn’t soft enough after you have peeled it, you can always microwave the flesh for a couple of minutes to cook it further.

This recipe can be served with rice or noodles for dinner or as a dip with crackers and bread for a crowd. I like it with sesame crackers or maybe spring onion pancakes, roti or other flatbreads.


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1.Put the eggplants directly over the flame of a gas burner or barbecue, or under a preheated grill, turning regularly until completely blackened and very soft.
2.Put into a large bowl or saucepan, cover with a lid and let them sweat for 10 minutes.
3.Peel off all the blackened skin and discard along with the stalk.
4.Put the flesh into a food processor along with any juices.
5.In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and tahini, stirring and breaking up the tahini with a fork until you have a smooth mixture.
6.Add this to the eggplant and blend. Set aside. This will keep in the fridge for a few days.
7.Put the cumin, coriander seeds and Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, then grind with the salt to a rough powder.
8.Crumble the tofu into small pieces.
9.Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the tofu and spices and fry, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes.
10.Take off the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
11.To serve as a dip, pile the eggplant onto a plate and top with the tofu crumb, chilli peanut oil to taste and a scattering of chives.
13.Put the garlic and oil in a wok or frying pan and heat over a medium-low heat until the garlic is sizzling and golden, about 8 minutes.
14.Take off the heat and add the peanuts, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, star anise and some salt and pepper.
15.Set aside to cool completely before removing the star anise and storing in a jar in the fridge. It keeps for months.

Recipes & food styling Fiona Smith Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Fiona Lascelles