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Smoky Eggplant Dip (Patlican Ezmesi)

This dip is made with eggplants cooked by charring them whole and with the skin on, over a gas ring, on a barbecue or under the broiler. It’s another dish which comes in all sorts of different guises in Istanbul—you can add anything from broiled bell peppers to a dollop of plain yogurt or roasted tomatoes to transform it into something quite different, but equally moreish.

The crucial thing, though, is that you burn the eggplants thoroughly. A great Istanbul chef, Gencay Ucok, who runs a restaurant called Meze by Lemon Tree, gave this advice: “If you think the eggplants are done, they’re not done. And if you run them under water to remove the skins, you’ll wash out all the flavor.” And he is quite right.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggplants
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt, to taste
  • Flatbreads or crudités for serving

Directions:

To char the eggplants, if using a gas hob, place a sheet of foil around the bottom of the ring, below the gas, to protect the hob from drips. If using a broiler, turn it up to its highest setting. Place the eggplants as close to the heat as possible (directly onto the ring if using gas) and allow each side to scorch until the skin is blackened and blistering and the flesh is beginning to collapse. Turn to ensure even cooking. This will take about 30 minutes under the broiler, or 15 to 20 minutes per eggplant on a gas ring, depending on size.

Place the charred vegetables in a bowl and splash 1 Tbs. of the lemon juice over each one. Let cool. Lay them on a cutting board and split lengthways down the middle. Scoop out the flesh, avoiding the black, charred skin as much as possible. Some Turkish cooks avoid any flesh that is slightly discolored, but it gives an intense smoky flavor to this dish. (If you want to avoid discolored flesh, you will need to blacken another eggplant to get enough untainted flesh.)

Squeeze the flesh to remove excess moisture—it will be quite wet—and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the garlic, olive oil, parsley and a little salt. Mash it gently with a fork—not too much or you will lose its pleasing, chunky texture. Serve as part of a meze with flatbreads or crudités. Serves 4.

Adapted from Istanbul, by Rebecca Seal (Hardie Grant Books, 2013).