Similar to baba ganoush, this garlicky smoked aubergine dip is delicious on bread, hot or cold. Fried tomato adds a warm and smooth flavour to this meze dish. Read on for my vegan Mirza Ghasemi origins story and simple recipe.
Traditionally, this Persian aubergine dip would contain egg but the deep smokey flavours of aubergine, tomato and garlic are perfect without it. My recipe is vegan, containing no animal products (no egg, and oil instead of butter). You can find out information about eating fewer animal products at The Vegan Society. Or you may want to try going vegan for a month with Veganuary.
Where is Mirza Ghasemi from?
Apparently, this smokey eggplant dip was first created in 1860 by Iran’s Ambassador to Russia after a trip to St Petersburg. ‘Mirza’ is a noble title referring to a certain male-lineage, and ‘Ghasem’ comes from the name of food’s inventor: Mohammed Ghassem Khan.
Supposedly, he first cooked Mirza Ghasemi in Rasht, the capital city of the Gilan province of Northern Iran. The Gilan province is a green, coastal landscape on the edge of the Caspian Sea and Rasht is nicknamed ‘the city of rain’ – quite a contrast to the dry deserts of Iran. Gilan’s humid climate and fertile earth creates a perfect environment for fruit and vegetables to grow. Aubergine and garlic are typical ingredients of the regional Gilan cuisine as well as fresh herbs and fish. In comparison, southern Iran borders India and contains strong spices and fragrant sweets. Mirza Ghasemi is one of many traditional dishes from Gilan that have become popular across Iran.
How to serve Mirza Ghasemi
There are many ways to serve and eat Persian eggplant dip. This recipe serves either two light portions or a side dish. Try serving it as:
- a starter with bread before a main meal
- a meze with lots of other small dishes
- a side-dish
- a light meal with bread and salad
- a sauce with rice such as Tahdig – Persian crispy rice or Lubia Polo
Overall, this is an easy, one-pot dish. However, to get the proper smokey flavour, the aubergine, tomato and garlic should be cooked over an open flame. In the summer, you can do this on a barbecue, otherwise on a gas stove top. (Clean your hob first as it will get messy, and be careful about setting off your smoke alarm!)
If you don’t have an open fire, you can grill or roast the vegetables. The garlic and tomatoes only need to be lightly cooked. But the aubergine must be cooked right through so that the juice is dripping out, the flesh is soft and the skin peels off easily.
So my cooking tips for Mirza Ghasemi are:
- cook the vegetables on fire
- thoroughly cook the aubergine
- open a window and don’t set off your smoke alarm
- take time to fry the garlic and tomato paste, this will improve the flavour
- Cook the aubergines and tomatoes over a fire. This could be on a barbecue or on a gas stove top. If you don't have these you can grill or roast them, but an open flame will give the smokey flavour. The tomatoes just need a little charring but the aubergines need to be cooked right through. Turn them regularly and then put onto a plate as each one becomes ready.
- Peel the garlic cloves and put on a skewer or cocktail stick. Lightly cook these on the flame.
- Once cooled a little, peel the tomatoes and aubergines with a spoon. Keep the fleshy part and discard the burnt skins and any stalks.
- Crush the garlic and chop finely. Heat oil in a pan and cook the garlic on a low medium heat - sizzling slightly. Once lightly browned, add tomato puree and leave to cook for 5 mins.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the pan. Add the spices. While cooking, chop the aubergines into large chunks.
- After at least another 5 mins, add the aubergines to the pan. Stir and cook for 5 mins. If your aubergines were thoroughly cooked on the flame earlier, they will not need long in the pan.
- Serve as a dip with bread and salad. You can garnish with ingredients such as basil, spring onion or parsley.
Did you make this recipe? Tag @vegan_middle_east on Instagram or comment below.