A year ago I had my first week of classes in Beijing. Everything was new and exciting, I got to go out and eat delicious Chinese food three times a day (or more), I was making new friends every single day, we were exploring Beijing by day and night and I could still wear my tiny little summer dresses cause the weather was great.
Compared to that, this week is pretty boring and the weather sucks big time. But one thing I do have now is a kitchen. Maybe I wasn’t missing it during the first couple of weeks in Beijing, but being able to experiment with new dishes, knowing exactly what is in my food and spending blissful hours in my crappy kitchen is a luxury I will be missing big time when I go back to China in November.
Recipe adapted from Jerusalem: a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
As always, I adapted the recipe due to the lack of ingredients, (not a lack of) laziness and misreading of the recipe. But for once I decided beforehand I would add an ingredient because it would add to the texture, taste and looks of the dish, hence the addition of pomegranate seeds.
4 medium eggplants
6 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 medium onions, finely chopped
500 g ground lamb
50 g almonds, coarsely chopped (the original recipe states for pine nuts)
20 g flat-leaf parsley + a little bit more for garnish
1 big tbsp tomato paste
3 tsp superfine sugar
150 ml water
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
the seeds of 1 pomegranate
Preheat the oven to 425˚F/220˚C.
Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan large enough to hold them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tbsp of the oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
While the eggplants are cooking, you can start by making the lamb stuffing by heating the two remaining tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mixture to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, almonds, parsley, tomato paste, 1 tsp of the sugar, 1 tsp salt, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for 8 minutes more, until the meat is cooked. Mix in half of the lemon juice.
Place the remaining spice mixture in a bowl and add the water, the remaining half of the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix well.
Reduce the oven to 375˚F/195˚C. Pour the spice mixture into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant (I ended up with some leftovers). Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 1/2 hours, by which point the eggplants should be soft and the sauce thick. Twice during cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce. Add some water if sauce dries out.
Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature. Before serving, sprinkle the eggplants with some chopped parsley and the pomegranate seeds.