Talking of light food, my summer menu consists largely of vegetables, lentils and yogurt based dishes. Mutabal or Mouttabal is one such delight from the Levantine cuisine that makes perfect starter or side for a summer meal. Generally Mutabal recipe is confused with Baba Ghanoush, another eggplant dish. There are similarities between the two; like they have roasted eggplant as the main ingredient which gives both the dishes a smoky taste that binds all other flavours and both are flavoured with garlic and olive oil.
So what exactly is the difference? Mouttabal or Mutabal Batinjan is a creamy eggplant mash with tahini (sesame paste) and yogurt. Lemon juice, salt and olive oil are added to season it and enhance the flavours. Baba Ganoush on the other hand has more ingredients, more texture but is lighter than Mouttabal because it doesn’t have the tahini paste in it. It combines finely chopped parsley, bell peppers, tomatoes and at times pomegranate molasses or pearls and walnuts are added too. The final taste of the two dishes is completely different but many restaurants outside the Levant region serve them interchangeably on the menus.
There are also a close counterparts from South Asia, the one from Punjab is called Baingan ka Bhurta and other from Bengal is Baigun Bortha, which are also made with smoked eggplants and chopped herbs. The dominant flavour in Bhurta is butter which is adds creaminess and in Bortha it’s mustard oil and lemon. If you are an eggplant lover than you will enjoy all these varieties of smoked eggplant dishes. Because all of them make great summer sides and starters.
1/2 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pickled Olives for garnishing (optional)
Fresh herbs for garnishing
This Is What You Do:
Bake them for 40 to 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C or till the flesh is soft and skin nicely charred.
When cool enough to handle, remove the stem and peel off the charred skin.
Add garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the flesh of eggplants. Mash and mix with a fork or use a mortar and pestle.
Add tahini and mix well.
Drizzle olive oil on top. Garnish with fresh herbs ( mint or coriander) and pickled olives.
Serve with toasted pita as a light summer starter.