Mirza Ghasemi is an exquisite, vegetarian dip from the northern region of Iran, with smoked aubergines (eggplants), tomatoes and garlic. And it’s crowning glory? The eggs that are stirred in right at the last minute.
Mirza Ghasemi Recipe
Mirza Ghasemi (میرزا قاسمی) is said to have been created by a former governor of Rasht, the capital of Gilan province, along the Caspian Sea in the north of Iran.
He served as an ambassador to Russia during the Qajar dynasty (1785-1925), and was widely reputed to be a great epicurean. Legend has it that he came up with this roasted eggplant dip while he was in Russia.
Naturally, at the end of his tenure in 1860, he took it back with him to Gilan. From here, its popularity spread throughout the region until it became a beloved recipe right across the country.
The name of this favourite northern Iranian recipe is a reflection of its origin.
- Mirza = a derivation of the Farsi word Amirzadeh, son of the ruler
amir = ruler, zadeh = son
- Ghasemi = from the name of the person who came up with the dish
You don’t need much to make this smoky Persian dip. The main players are aubergines, garlic, tomatoes and eggs. Let’s take a look at some things we need to bear in mind.
The most important part of this recipe, and its major contributing flavour factor is the charring of the aubergines. This creates that signature smoky flavour, much like in baba ghanoush.
This can be done in three ways.
- The best method, and that will create a beautiful smoky taste is grilling the aubergines on hot charcoal, as in using a barbecue. If you have a gas barbecue, then you might as well use the indoor method.
- If you don’t have or don’t want to bother with a charcoal barbecue, then the cheat’s version would be to do this over your gas stove flames, then finish off in the oven.
- And if you don’t have a gas stove, then just char your aubergines under your grill (broiler). No need for the oven.
For all the methods above, we want to blacken the skin of the eggplants until it’s papery in parts.
You may raise your eyebrows at 6 cloves of garlic for 4 people, but trust me on this. Mirza Ghasemi is not only smoky, but it is also garlicky and a touch sweet and tart from the tomatoes.
The garlic offsets the tomatoes beautifully. Throw in some chopped parsley as a garnish if you are concerned. Okay, okay, cut the garlic down to 2-3 cloves if like me, you have a mother in law who hates garlic!
You can see from the images here, that the sauce has a base of tomatoes. You can use fresh or canned, but when I’m making any saucy dish or stew, canned tomatoes are always my preference, as they give a more rounded flavour.
To add more depth, we also use a little concentrated tomato paste. And because I’m a huge fan of sundried tomato paste, although it’s not a Persian ingredient (it’s Italian), that’s what I tend to use. Because the flavour it imparts? Totally rocks! Try it and you’ll see what I mean.
The traditional method when making mirza ghasemi is to stir in beaten eggs right at the end of cooking to thicken as well as to add more body and flavour.
What I also like to do is drop egg yolks over the finished eggplant dip and leave it runny. You can see this in the pictures.
So If I’m cooking for 4 people, I would use a total of 5 eggs. 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites will be stirred in, with 4 yolks left runny. You’ll see in the recipe below. You can use all the egg whites if you like. But I don’t like too much egg stirred through this smoky dip, so I freeze the other 2 for another day.
Whatever size eggs you use is completely up to you, it makes no difference to the recipe.
Vegan Mirza Ghasemi
This is easy. Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter and leave out the eggs. Your vegan eggplant dip will be awesome.
But if you want some body in your vegan mirza ghasemi, you could:
- mash some silken tofu up and stir it through like we would the eggs.
- do the same with some canned chickpeas. Mash them thoroughly, lighten with a little water, then stir through.
Cooking Mirza Ghasemi
It’s pretty straightforward. The charring of the aubergines is probably the only part that is out of the ordinary (relatively speaking). This is what we’ll be doing:
- Char and smoke the aubergines using whatever method you can/want.
- Cool and peel the aubergines.
- Get the tomato based sauce going and cook everything to a soft, pulpy and fairly dry state.
- Stir the eggs through and finish off with poaching the egg yolks, if you want. Like in Shakshuka.
- Garnish with fresh herb of your choice and some freshly ground black pepper.
How to Serve Mirza Ghasemi
Mirza Ghasemi can be enjoyed as a dip as part of a mezze. Or it can be a starter, along with some flatbread of any origin, whether Middle Eastern or otherwise.
You can also have it as a side vegetable dish in a Middle Eastern menu.
And finally, sometimes, when I have some homemade kashk in the fridge, I’ll drizzle a little of it on this for an umami kick.
And I think that’s all there is to chat about this recipe.
Shall we get in the kitchen?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating! Shukran!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.
- 3 medium aubergines (eggplants) total weight about 600g – 700g (about 1½ lb)
- 6 medium garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 400 g canned tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp sundried tomato paste (or regular)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2-5 eggs whatever size
- freshly ground black pepper
- chopped parsley or coriander (cilantro) optional garnish
Char the Aubergines – Barbecue
- Prep your barbecue. Then push a skewer through your aubergines and barbecue them for about 15 minutes, turning frequently. When done, leave to cool until they can be handled without burning and follow the steps below.If you have a gas barbecue, you might as well do this on the stove or under your grill (broiler).
Char the Aubergines – Indoors
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F/ Fan 180˚C) and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Pierce the aubergines with a metal skewer or fork. Place them over your gas flame for about 5 minutes, turning 3 times until the skin is a very dark colour.The skewers are there to help you turn the eggplants. Be careful, don't burn your fingers.
- When done, place on the foil covered baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they are completely soft, literally melting on the inside. You should be able to push a knife right through.Take them out of the oven and leave to cool so you can handle them.
Getting the Aubergine Flesh
- Make sure the aubergines are cool enough, then you can do this 2 ways:1. EITHER peel the burnt skin off. Don't worry too much about getting all of it off. The odd bit of burnt skin is going to enhance the mirza ghasemi's flavour.2. OR halve the aubergines lengthwise. Then using a spoon, scrape out all the soft flesh.
- Using a knife, roughly chop up the aubergine flesh which should be very, very, soft. Set aside.Discard the skins.
Cooking Mirza Ghasemi
- Chop the garlic finely.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat.
- Fry the garlic for 30 seconds then add the turmeric, chopped tomatoes, sundried tomatoes and salt.
- Bring the heat up to medium (depending on the size of your pan) and stir everything to mix well. Bring it up to simmering, then cover, lower heat and cook for 5 minutes.
- Ad the chopped/mashed aubergines, increase heat to medium again, so everything can heat up well. Mix it thoroughly, then reduce heat back down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. We want a fairly thick stew at the end of this time. If still runny, leave lid off and cook for 5 more minutes.Check seasoning, and add more salt if necessary. A little freshly ground black pepper at this stage would be good too, just stir it all in.
Adding the Eggs
- If just stirring the eggs through: we'll only use 2 eggs.Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork.When your aubergine and tomato mix above has thickened to your liking and you've checked seasoning, pour the beaten eggs all over and gently stir it through using a fork. We don't want overcooked eggs so do this for only 1 minute or so.Take it off the heat, leave to rest for 5 minutes, then top with freshly ground black pepper and herb of your choice.
- If having runny yolks: separate the 4 eggs into yolks and whites.If you are using all the whites, just break the other egg into them and whisk lightly to mix. If you don't want all those whites, save half the amount aside for another day.Stir the beaten eggs into your mix with a fork.Then, create 4 little wells and drop the egg yolks in each. Cover and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes or until the yolks are done to your liking. Or less, if you want the yolks very runny.Rest for 5 minutes, then top with freshly ground black pepper and herb of your choice.
- Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container, in the fridge for 1 day. If your eggs have been completely stirred through, your mirza ghasemi will keep for 2 days in the fridge.