This Caramelised Red Onion & Aubergine (Eggplant) Dip is a tasty and easy summer dip that has child appeal with the sweet flavour of red onion, and is fairly budget with the use of canned kidney beans to add thickness and texture. It's also gluten free. I came up with this recipe basically because I needed to use up an aubergine, and being a lazy cook at times, one of my favourite ways of cooking aubergine is to blast the whole thing in the microwave.
I don't use the microwave that often in my cooking, but preparing an aubergine like this - with the skin intact - is one of the simplest ways of using aubergine for recipes. It means the inside goes all soft and is very versatile for dips or sauces, but you also get to retain the skin, which doesn't char.
For people who don't have or don't want to use a microwave, there are other methods of cooking an aubergine in the skin, see this link on how to roast an aubergine. One way I do it, if I am just using the inside and not the skin too, is to place under a hot grill (broiler) on some foil and cook each side. This takes a while, around 45-55 minutes, and you grill the eggplant until the skin goes black and it all sinks in.
As well for this recipe, you can take a while sautéing the onion to allow it to caramelise properly, or you can cheat a little, fry it more quickly and add a tiny bit of sugar instead. I suppose it depends on how much time you have, and how perfectionist you are :) The taste will not be that different, but you might not want to add sugar into the recipe.
Serve this dip with warmed pitta bread, granary toast, on fresh crusty bread, with crudités, or in sandwiches. Great as a starter, for a party buffet or just a little snack. You can also try this with my Austerity Oat Soda Bread.
Caramelised Red Onion & Aubergine (Eggplant) Dip
Makes about 2 cups
1 aubergine (eggplant), prepared as below
1 red onion, chopped
3 ripe medium-large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons light tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small green chilli, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
1. Cook the aubergine in its skin, so it is totally soft on the inside. I do this by microwaving. I prick the outside skin with a fork a few times, place on a plate, cook one side on full power for about 3 minutes, then turn over and do the other side for 2-3 minutes. The skin needs to be all wrinkly, with the aubergine collapsing (if you don't have a microwave, you can roast the aubergine in its skin).
2. Set the aubergine aside to cool. NB: If you have used the microwaving method, you will be able to use the whole aubergine in this recipe, skin included. If the skin has become charred through roasting, you will need to scoop the insides out when cool, and discard the skin.
3. In a frying pan, heat the oil on low-medium and sauté the red onion slowly so that it has a chance to caramelise. You may need around 20-30 minutes of frying (you can optionally add a couple of teaspoons of sugar to sweeten further or simply cheat). Add the chopped tomatoes and cook another 5-8 minutes, then when almost ready to turn off the heat, add the garlic and chilli and sauté for a minute or two more. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. Now the aubergine/eggplant is cooled, place the whole vegetable, minus the stalk, into a food processor with the drained kidney beans. Blend together, then add the onion mixture. Blend and scrape down the sides, as required. Add the tahini, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, paprika, and salt. Blend until you have a smooth dip.
5. The dip may still be warm or at room temperature, and I like it at this temperature, served with warm pitta bread or granary toast. Otherwise, put in a covered dish and place into the fridge until chilled. Then serve in whichever way you like to eat your dips!