Vincent’s Middle Eastern Trilogy: Hummus, Baba Ganoush & Butternut Squash
This is Vincent.
Vincent is a traveller. A real one. Not the type that goes to a different country because he wants to post beautiful photos on his social media account or eat European dishes when visiting South America. Instead, his heart is in it for the real, authentic, true experience, immersing himself fully in the arts and cultures of foreign countries. He wants to taste local foods, learn the language, meet the people and soak up as much of the atmosphere as he possibly can. He is German but has a Chilean passport and it seems that traveling to distant places lies in his blood. Vincent’s mother Angela owns a beautiful cafe in a great district in Berlin which carries the name Los Angelitos. I discovered it not only because it’s a lovely spot to sip some coffee but also because it has one special asset: my heart’s favourite instrument, the piano. Whenever I find the time, I go over to Angela’s cosy café, play some tunes and listen to the many Spanish conversations that take place in this wondrous speck. Just like her son, Angela is drawn to the sun and Latin American culture which is why she fell in love with Argentina. Berlin isn’t quite comparable with Buenos Aires so she brought a bit of Argentina to Germany: the walls in her café are covered with art made by an Argentinian artist and let me give you a little fun fact: the wifi password is empanada because why the hell not?
The dishes (yes, plural) that he’s cooking for us today are inspired by his travels to Jerusalem. He tells me that the food there has multiple cultural influences due to its vast background of immigration. It’s a fusion between Spanish, Iranian, Arabic and North African cuisine, all of which are delicious! I feel incredibly lucky to be invited to his home on this beautiful Sunday to taste the culinary souvenirs of his travels.
As soon as I arrived at this apartment, Vincent started to heat up the kitchen, turn on the gas flames and roast four plump, purple, gorgeous eggplants. Are you curious what these eggplants were for? I won’t hold you in suspense any longer: Vincent was in the midst of making baba ganoush. Yes. I know. It’s my favourite too. Next, he revealed that there are more delicious dishes lined up: homemade hummus and a delightful butternut squash oven dish topped with an extraordinarily tasty tahini dip, fresh parsley and za’atar (you must know that I respect people who have real, authentic spices in their kitchen shelf). Vincent, you know what’s good!
Apart from Arabic cuisine, Vincent also really enjoys Peruvian food (he used to live there as well – I mean, where hasn’t he lived?!), but says that their traditional dishes are more difficult to prepare as he doesn’t find the right ingredients in Germany. In Peru, he was living with a Peruvian family meaning that he ate home-cooked, traditional meals every single day. Did he appreciate this luxury? You bet. There, the food has South American, Spanish and Asian elements, a combination that is rare to find. As Vincent is peeling the roasted aubergine skins he tells me that it’s not just the Peruvian food that is very diverse but also nature’s landscapes. You’ll find coasts, mountains, deserts and rainforests that don’t only reflect the variety of traditions but also the wide span of ingredients used in local cuisine. Instead of roaming through tropical rainforests, Vincent now lives in Berlin where he enjoys working, living, cycling and obviously roasting eggplants.
In Peru, Vincent worked as a sports teacher at a primary school. Sports play an important part in his life and by that, I mean sports of extreme kind: a 4km swim followed by a 40km run and then another 120km cycle. Though mind you: these are not the distances he covers in one year but in one day. What he appreciates about such tournaments are not merely the individual disciplines but instead, it’s about the months of preparation and training prior to the starting pistol. When watching him cook, it feels like he’s following the same principlethe; he chose three dishes for which he deliberately takes time, prepares everything according to the recipes and without distractions, works towards the goal of serving delicious food. Speaking of which, let’s get that butternut roasting, shall we?
Hummus, Baba Ganoush & Roasted Butternut Squash
Prep Time: 30 min
Cooking Time: 40 min
Total Time: 1 hr 10 min
For the hummus you will need:
250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked
270g light tahini paste
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, crushed
100ml cold water
salt to taste
- In a food processor, blend the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and water until all is smooth.
- Season with salt and serve with a drizzle of olive oil.
For the baba ganoush you will need:
4 large aubergines
3 cloves of garlic
zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
seeds of 1 pomegranate
salt & pepper to taste
- Turn on your gas stove and place the eggplants directly over the heat source. Occasionally turn them with tongs (be careful not to burn yourself) and cook until the aubergines are well charred on all sides.
- If you don’t use gas, preheat the oven or a grill and roast the eggplants for 30-40 minutes.
- Cut the aubergines lengthwise and carefully scoop out the flesh with a large spoon. Transfer the flesh to a strainer and allow excess liquid to discard.
- Add the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil to the aubergine flesh and stir with a fork until all ingredients are smoothly combined. Lastly season with salt and pepper, garnish with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and dig in!
For the butternut squash you will need:
1 large butternut squash, cut into wedges
2 red onions, sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp light tahini paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
30g pine nuts
1 tbsp za’atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC on fan mode.
- Place the butternut squash and onion in an oven dish and stir along with 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the butternut is cooked through with crispy edges.
- In a small bowl, mix the tahini with lemon juice, water garlic and salt. Stir until the consistency is thick and smooth, similar to honey. If you need, use a little bit more water or tahini.
- Roast the pine nuts in a pan along with the remaining olive oil and season with salt.
- To serve, spread the butternut squash and onion wedges on a plate, drizzle tahini on top and sprinkle with pine nuts, freshly chopped parsley and za’atar.
It seems that the motto for this Middle Eastern trilogy is tahini, tahini and a little more tahini! I love this smooth, slightly bitter sesame paste and appreciate that obviously, Vincent does too!
Vincent, thank you for your time, your willingness to share your stories and thank you for such a delicious meal!
See you soon at your mom’s cosy piano-music filled café.