Last month I was in Dubai, reeling from the exuberance and excesses of this fairly young city. For a change I wasn’t bogged down by the sun, because the city was quite cold- well, single sweater and a jacket kind of cold. Long drives down the picturesque Palm Jumeirah, wine by the beach, hours spent at the mall browsing for things I could do without- Dubai is the sprawling garden of the future, and it’s exhilarating to stumble upon hidden jewels of culture from the Arab world here. One such find was Kashk.
Kashk tastes a lot like goat’s cheese, but more runny. It’s made from drying fermented yoghurt or milk or whey. Think of it as a great finishing agent for dishes that need that extra bit of umami or dips that need a bit more creamy texture. Its distinct sour but delicious, almost cheesy taste, reminiscent of both parmesan and goat’s cheese makes it an ingredient worth hunting down if you’re in the Middle East. To find it, we had to visit a grocery store tucked inside, yes inside the Iranian Hospital on Al Wasl Road. The seemingly simple store sold Zereshk berries, a runny but stronger tahini in small Bisleri-like bottles, jam jars of pomegranate molasses and refrigerated tubs of Kashk sauce sold like yoghurt. All very affordable, I walked out with one of each and brought them home to Mumbai to cook with.
Now I’m a fan of Baba Ganoush- the rich, smoky, creamy dip tastes delicious with pita bread and by itself, but if you’re ready to take it to the next level, you’ve got to make this Kashk-e-Badamjan. A generous topping of pomegranate molasses before you serve cuts through the smooth creamy flavours making this instantly delicious.
Aubergines 3 large
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 60ml
Onion 1, thinly sliced
Garlic 6 cloves
Kashk 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper
Dried Mint powder 1 tsp, to serve
Pomegranate molasses 2-3 tbsp to serve
Walnuts 1 tbsp, toasted and crushed, to serve
Using your stovetop burner, char each of the aubergines, then separate the skin from the flesh of the aubergine.
In a frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and fry the onions and garlic together till they have turned golden brown. Add in the aubergine flesh and cover with about 1/2 cup of water and let it simmer over low heat till the aubergine flesh is soft enough to puree, and the mixture has dried considerably.
Using a masher or a hand-held blender, blend this aubergine mixture with the kashk and taste for salt and pepper.
Finish wth a sprinkle of dried mint powder, followed by a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses and finally, a sprinkle of toasted walnuts. Serve immediately.