Smoky Whole Eggplants With Crispy Chickpeas, Olives & Tahini

These eggplants have all the things I love. Cooked and served whole with little interference, with layers of sweet, sour, acid, crunch, creaminess and herbs.

Tom says…

I was lucky to grow up in the Blue Mountains surrounded by bush and gardens. We had a Lebanese neighbour, Nadeema, who became like my adopted grandmother as my extended family were in England after my parents left in the 70s.

My childhood was immersed in Nadeema’s garden and kitchen, so I had an early and close connection to cooking with Middle Eastern flavours as well as the generosity of bringing people together around the table – it became my love language and still is to this day.

Some of my fondest memories are of the meals our family would share at her home. There was always an abundance of dishes, passed around so you could make up your own plate. The flavours were simple but bold and exciting. My favourite days were during the warmer months when we would light a little charcoal fire in Nadeema’s backyard and cook eggplants and meat skewers over the coals. It’s a distinct and intoxicating smell, that smokiness.

I would spend a lot of time in Nadeema’s kitchen, learning how she did things. It was such an enjoyable time. The flavours and approach to cooking have stuck with me, shaping the way I cook, eat and share the food I love with others. There’s a big focus on vegies, lots of spices, lemons and herbs in my food, and I love to dish things up so everyone can dig in and pass plates around.

These eggplants have all the things I love. Cooked and served whole with little interference, with layers of sweet, sour, acid, crunch, creaminess and herbs. Serve them as part of a larger meal with some delicious seafood like a whole roast fish, seared tuna or grilled prawns.



Smoky Whole Eggplants With Crispy Chickpeas, Olives & Tahini


Serves 4

5 eggplants
Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chilli oil
Juice of 1 lemo
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
⅔ cup garlicky whipped tahini
2 tablespoons za’atar
⅓ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1 cup crispy roast chickpeas
Handful dill fronds, roughly chopped
Handful mint leaves, roughly chopped

Garlicky Whipped Tahini

½ cup hulled tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely crushed
Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper

Crispy Roast Chickpeas

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried uncovered on a paper towel overnight in the fridge
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper 


Preheat a barbecue to high and cook the eggplants whole for 15 minutes, turning throughout, until the skins are charred and the eggplants are soft. Alternatively, working in batches, place the whole eggplants over an open gas flame and cook for 10 minutes, turning throughout, until soft. You can also bake them by placing them directly onto the oven racks and cooking at 230°C for 20-25 minutes, until soft (though you won’t get the same smoky flavour).

Place the cooked eggplants on a wire rack set over a plate or tray and allow them to drain and cool for a few minutes, then carefully peel off the burnt skin, leaving the eggplants whole and the tops intact, if possible. Carefully transfer them to a serving platter, season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the olive oil, chilli oil, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses.

To make the garlicky whipped tahini, place all the ingredients in a blender with ⅔ cup water and blend into a smooth paste. Adjust the water and lemon juice until you have a silky consistency. Transfer to an airtight container or jar and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

To make the crispy roast chickpeas, preheat the oven to 210°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Toss the dried chickpeas with the olive oil, spices and a little salt and pepper until well coated. Scatter over the baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool.

To serve, spoon the garlicky whipped tahini over the eggplants and sprinkle with the za’atar. Top with the olives, crispy roast chickpeas and herbs, and dig in.