Di’s Lamb & pine nut stuffed eggplants with yoghurt dressing

Di’s Lamb & pine nut stuffed eggplants with yoghurt dressing

(Adapted a little from the wonderful recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi in ‘Jerusalem: A Cookbook’)

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If you love eggplants stuffed with great flavour then this is the recipe for you!!

The eggplant collapses to a silky smoothness, while the cinnamon features among the warm Middle Eastern spices. A little time-consuming to prepare but the end result is worth every single moment!! 

Total cooking time: about 2 hours 15 minutes

Serves 4

 Ingredients

  • 4 medium eggplants (about 1.2kg), halved lengthways
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1½ tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2½  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 medium brown onions, finely chopped
  • 500g minced lamb
  • 50g pine nuts
  • Large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 150ml water (plus extra if needed)
  • 1½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons tamarind paste
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Yoghurt dressing

  • 250 ml goat’s milk yoghurt (or cow’s milk yoghurt)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
  • squeeze of lemon juice (no more than 1 teaspoon)
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • small pinch salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (fan-forced). Choose a roasting pan that fits the eggplants fairly tightly and brush a little oil on the bottom. Place the halved eggplants skin-side down, brush flesh with half the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, uncovered, or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
  2. For the lamb mince stuffing: Mix the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frypan and add the chopped onion and half the spice mix. Cook on medium-high for about 8 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the minced lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato purée, 1 teaspoon of sugar, some salt and black pepper. Continue cooking for a further 8-10 minutes, breaking up any lumps and stirring until the lamb is done.
  4. Reduce the oven to 175C (fan-forced). Combine the remaining spice mix in a bowl with the water, remaining sugar, lemon juice, tamarind paste, cinnamon sticks and a good pinch of salt. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  5. Spoon the lamb mixture generously on top of each eggplant (heap it on as the eggplant flesh will collapse further during cooking and the mixture will settle into the shell). Cover tightly with foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove the foil two or three times during cooking and baste the eggplants with the sauce. Add a little more water if the sauce begins to dry out and become too sticky. The eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick; cook a little longer if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature with the yoghurt dressing and a crisp green salad.

For the yoghurt dressing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

*Substitute lamb mince for beef or chicken if you prefer.

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