I’m an eggplant fanatic. Fried, baked, grilled, barbequed, breaded……you name it, I love it. Fortunately, Persian cuisine is an eggplant lovers paradise. If I had to pick my favourite Persian eggplant dish it would be a tight race, but I think Kashk-e Bademjan would have to be the winner. Creamy and garlic-y with caramelized onion and tender, fried eggplant, this dip is ridiculously delicious. It has ruined many Persian restaurant lunches for me as I can not resist ordering it and eat so much that I have no room left for Kabab!
For those of you who don’t know, kashk is whey – the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained in the cheese-making process. In North America, most people’s familiarity with whey is in the form of whey protein for protein shakes. In the Middle East, whey (or kashk as we call it in Farsi), is used a great deal in cooking. It provides a wonderful flavour and a creamy consistency to a lot of dishes. Kashk and eggplant are a wonderful complement to each other. The following is the Kashk-e Bademjan recipe my mother taught me, which I believe is superior to any restaurant version I’ve had!
6 Japanese eggplant (or two large regular eggplant)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp kashk (whey)*
salt and pepper
Cut the top off the eggplant, peel them, slice them in half lengthwise and cut them into three-inch pieces. Put them in a colander and liberally sprinkle salt on them to remove any bitterness. Leave them for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
In a large frying pan, heat 4-5 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Fry the onions, stirring occasionally until golden (about 10 minutes). Add the turmeric and fry for another minute. Remove from heat.
In another pan (or you may temporarily remove the onions and use the same pan), heat about 1/2 cup of canola oil over medium-high heat. Rinse the eggplant and pat completely dry. Fry the eggplant in batches until golden on each side (2-3 minutes). You may need to add more oil as you go.
When done, add all the eggplant back in the pan along with the fried onions and garlic. Add 1/2 cup water and fry the mixture for 1 minute.
Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover and continue cooking (stirring occasionally) until eggplant is very tender (15-20 minutes). When tender, use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the eggplant. It does not need to be completely smooth.
Turn off the heat and stir in the kashk until well incorporated and creamy. If you would like it creamier, add more kashk. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
You may garnish with walnuts, fried onions and drizzled kashk if you wish. Serve with toasted barbarry bread, pita or lavash. Enjoy!
*You may purchase kashk at Iranian supermarkets and specialty stores. If you can not find kashk, you can try substituting full fat sour cream. It will not have exactly the same flavour but it will still be delicious!