If I’m put on the spot about which is my favourite season, I would have to say Autumn.  The cooling air, the vibrant leaves, the shortening days and the beautiful Autumnal produce all make me feel peaceful somehow.

It’s also the right time of year for one of Mother Nature’s most versatile ingredients – eggplant.  Beautiful stuffed with cheeses and baked, in a Thai red vegetable curry or a decadent moussaka.  Here’s one of my favourite ways to use it – in the traditional smoky Lebanese dip, baba ghanouj.

Baba ghanouj

Makes 2 cups

Prep time: 10 minutes  plus cooling time Cooking time: 5 minutes

3 small or 2 medium eggplants

¼ cup tahini*

3 cloves garlic, peeled

Juice 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon salt

Olive oil, paprika, chopped parsley and chopped tomato to garnish

To get the smoky flavour into the eggplant, sit the directly onto the gas burner on your cooktop. ( If you don’t have a gas cooktop, place the eggplants under a hot grill.)  Turn the eggplant regularly, until all the skin is charred and the eggplant soft through.  Place into a sink of water to cool.  The skin will peel away easily from the flesh.  Sit the flesh in a colander for a few minutes to drain.

Place the eggplant in the bowl of a food processor with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt.  Blend thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.  The end result will be smooth, creamy and incredibly flavourful.  Place in the serving dish and garnish with olive oil, paprika, chopped flat leaf parsly and chopped tomatoes.  Serve with wedges of Lebanese bread.

*Tahini

This nutty-flavoured sesame paste is used in many Lebanese dishes.

1 cup (230g) sesame seeds

¼ cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 160°C.  Place the sesame seeds on baking paper on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5-10 minutes, until very lightly golden.  Do not allow to darken.  (alternatively, place the seeds in a dry frypan over medium heat and toast until golden.)

Please the sesame seeds in the bowl of a mini food processor with the olive oil, and blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until completely smooth.  This takes a few minutes.