Stuffed aubergines with lamb & pine nuts
All hail Yotam Ottolenghi, the God of extremely tasty Israeli food. I was given (after heavy hinting) his latest book, Jerusalem, for Christmas and cooked two of the recipes that caught my eye most last night for dinner – and they were both exceptional.
The recipe makes enough for four generous servings, but I halved the quantity of lamb and aubergine as I was cooking for two. However, I forgot to half everything else (idiot). I’ll include the original recipe here so that you can make it as intended, but I thought the extra strength of spice was absolutely delicious!
You will need:
4 medium aubergines (halved lengthways)6 tbspn olive oil
1 1/2 tspn ground cumin
1 1/2 tbspn sweet paprika
1 tbspn ground cinnamon
2 medium onions, finely chopped
500g minced lamb
50g pine nuts
20g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tspn tomato puree
3 tspn caster sugar
1 1/2 tbspn lemon juice
1 tspn tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
salt and black pepper
1 – Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
2 – Place the aubergine halves, skin-side down, in a roasting tin large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tbspns of the olive oil and season with salt and plenty of black pepper.
4 – While the aubergines are cooking, start making the stuffing by heating the remaining oil in a frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions.
5 – Cook on a medium-high heat for 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato puree and 1 tspn of the sugar; season. Cook for 8 minutes or so, until the meat is cooked.
7 – Reduce the oven temperature to 195 degrees.
8 – Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the aubergine roasting tin. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each aubergine.
9 – Cover the tin tightly with foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes, by which point the aubergines should be completely soft and the sauce thick.
10 – Baste the lamb with the spice mix twice during cooking. Serve warm, not hot.
(Note, I removed the tins from the oven after one hour, as they were perfectly cooked and had absorbed the spice mix well at this point.)
Baby spinach salad with dates & almonds
While the lamb and aubergines are cooking, you can easily whip up this salad, also from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book.
You will need:
1 tbspn white wine vinegar
1/2 medium red onion, finely sliced
100g pitted Medjool dates, chopped
30g unsalted butter
2 tbspn olive oil
2 small pita breads, roughly torn into 4cm pieces
75g whole, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
2 tspn sumac
1/2 tspn chilli flakes
150g baby spinach leaves, washed
2 tbspn lemon juice
1 – Put the vinegar, dates and onion in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes before removing any residual vinegar.
2 – Meanwhile, heat the butter and half the oil in a pan. Add the pitas and almonds; fry for 4-6 minutes until the pita is crunchy, golden and crisp. Remove from the heat and stir in the sumac and chilli; set aside to cool.
3 – When ready to serve, toss the spinach with the pita mix before adding the dates and onion, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt; mix well and serve immediately.
This simple-sounding salad, with its sweet and tart ingredients and the crunchy nuts and pitas, was the perfect foil to the rich, earthy and smoky lamb. Do try these recipes together – it made the most incredible dinner, one that I will no doubt make time and time again!