American-Iranian chef Ariana Bundy shares her recipe for Kashgeh Bademjan – a grilled aubergine spread topped with creamy whey, fried onions, garlic, mint and walnuts – taken from her cookbook Pomegranates and Roses.
Kashk gives this rich aubergine dish its special edge. It is dried buttermilk – a by-product of cheese-making that is either compressed into round balls or powdered. Before adding to dishes it must be mixed with water to create a paste or liquid whey. Kashk has depth of flavour – think liquid feta but much stronger in taste and with the consistency of tahini. Ready-mixed kashk is conveniently sold in jars in Persian food shops.*
Kashgeh Bademjan is generally served at parties as an appetiser with lots of thin lavash bread for dipping. I used sangak bread sprinkled with sesame seeds and baked over small black pepples in a hot oven.
6–7 medium aubergines – I bought mine from the farmers market at Baker & Spice Marina Promenade.
60ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
75g (1/4 cup) kashk
1/2 tsp salt
pepper, to taste
For the topping:
2 sprigs fresh mint & 1 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp kashk
1/3 tsp saffron threads, pounded then dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp ground walnuts
1. Bake the whole aubergines at 200°C for approximately 45 minutes until charred.
2. Remove the skin, chop the flesh and place in a non-stick frying pan with the olive oil and onion, and fry until golden. Add the chopped garlic at the very end and allow it to brown. Then add just enough water to cover the mixture and let it simmer for about 20–30 minutes so that it becomes soft enough to purée.
3. Purée the cooked aubergine and onion mixture with a hand-held mixer, pestle and mortar or even a potato masher, along with the kashk, plus salt and pepper to taste.
4. Make the topping. Fry the mint in 1 tbsp oil, and set aside. Fry the garlic in the remaining oil until golden, then set aside.
5. Spread the aubergine purée on a large shallow plate. Garnish with the fried mint and garlic, the kashk and a drizzle of olive oil and saffron liquid. Sprinkle with walnuts and serve with Iranian bread or any other thin bread, although a crusty baguette will also do nicely.
Note: For a quick version, instead of baking whole aubergines, cut them into 8cm cubes. Place in a colander, run a little water over and then salt them to sweat away the bitterness. After 20–30 minutes, wipe the pieces with paper towels, then follow the method above.
Bread aside, I served the dip with some chelo kababs (twice minced beef from Prime Gourmet) and grilled cherry tomatoes. If you have any dip left over, paste generously over any local white fish fillets (preferably sustainable) and bake in the oven for a few minutes – perfect for a light supper.
Rather bizarrely, the Iranian hospital on Al Wasl road houses a small grocery store where I bought Kashk (dried buttermilk), barberries (also stocked at Lulu supermarket), a selection of Iranian bread, and FooDiva’s weakness, sour cherry candy. They will even deliver anywhere in Dubai! T; +971 4 4046338.