As any fan of Yotam Ottolenghi's previous book, Plenty, knows, the man is an expert when it comes to eggplant. In his and his partner Sami Tamimi's new book Jerusalem: A Cookbook, there are copious recipes for eggplant—stuffed, puréed, roasted, baked, and everything in between. In their Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts, they fill the silky, humble nightshade with a warmly spiced blend of gamey ground lamb, sweet onions, and a smattering of pine nuts. But instead of roasting the eggplants separately before topping with the mixture, Ottolenghi and Tamimi roast the whole shebang tightly covered in the oven, basting the eggplants with a tangy tamarind and cinnamon sauce to meld the elements into one rich and comforting dish.
Why I picked this recipe: Silky roasted eggplant plus rich, savory lamb equals a big win in my book.
What worked: The warm spices match perfectly to gamey ground lamb, and the pine nuts offer a welcome crunchy pop.
What didn't: My eggplants came out a little watery. Next time I'd score them before the initial roast to encourage more of their liquid to evaporate.
Suggested tweaks: You could easily swap in ground beef, turkey, or chicken (sticking with fattier blends) for the lamb if you'd like. I'd stay away from pork though.
Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 4 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds/1.2 kg), halved lengthwise
- 6 tablespoons/90 ml olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 medium onions (12 ounces/340 grams in total), finely chopped
- 1 pound/500 grams ground lamb
- 7 tablespoons/50 grams pine nuts
- 2/3 ounces/20 grams flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 3 teaspoons superfine sugar
- 2/3 cup/150 ml water
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the eggplants are cooking, you can start making the stuffing by heating the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix well.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F/195°C. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. 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 completely soft and the sauce thick; twice during the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.