Thursday, 20 March 2014

Aubergine stuffed with lamb and spices

Based on a Rick Stein recipe, this serves 2 as main course, or 4 as starter or smaller dish


Stuffed aubergine

  • 2 aubergines
  • 200g minced lamb
  • couscous
  • large handful of fresh coriander
  • manchego cheese: enough  to cover each aubergine half, thinly sliced or grated
  • 1 tsp papricón (Spanish sweet smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp regular paprika
  • 0.5 tsp sumac (optional, if this is hard to find!)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 small dreid red chilli
  • 0.5 tsp nutmeg
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon

For tomato sauce base

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 large cooking tomatoes
  • 1 shallot or small onion
  • (option) 1 tbsp chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • herbs: some combination of thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, etc., preferably fresh
  • 2 bay leaves
The tomato sauce base can be made in advance and reheated to make the stuffing. You might also want to make extra, to refrigerate or freeze and keep for other recipes.

How to make it

First make the tomato sauce base. This can be done in advance and reheated to make the stuffing, or started when the aubergines go into the oven (see below). Heat the olive oil in a frying pan or heavy-bottom sauce pan. Chop the onion or shallot, and start to fry gently for around 5 minutes. Add the chopped celery if using after a minute or two, and the chopped or pressed garlic towards the end. Don't allow anything to brown. 

Skin the tomatoes by immersing in very hot and then cold water, then peeling off the skin. Chop roughly, and add to the pan. Stir, add the vinegar and tomato puree and stir well. Allow to cook through slowly for another 5 minutes, then add the chopped herbs and bay leaves, and cook for another five minutes or so on a low heat. Set aside off the heat if you are preparing it in advance.

Heat the oven to around 200° C, or 180 if you have a fan oven. Slice the aubergines in half lengthways, then score the flesh deeply , but be careful not to cut the skin. Place the halved aubergines skin-side down on a lightly oiled tray and put into the oven. Roast for around 20 minutes. Allow to cool a little so that they can be handled. Now is a good time to start cooking the lamb.

Heat a large frying pan and cook the lamb over a medium heat. Stir, and try to separate the pieces of meat, and cook until it is all brown rather than red. This should only take 5 minutes or so. You wouldn't cook a lamb chop until it is was brown in the middle and dried out, and you shouldn't do it to mince either! Now stir in the tomato sauce, and make sure that it is all blended well and warmed through. Leave that to heat gently and grind the coriander seeds, chilli and cinnamon in a pestle and mortar. Turn off the heat and add to the sauce, along with the papricón, paprika, lemon thyme and freshly grated nutmeg. Hold back the coriander leaves until the very last moment, but you could rinse and chop them at this point. Make sure to include as much of the stalks of the coriander as possible - this is where all the flavour is.

Prepare the couscous by adding boiling water to it in a bowl (as per the instructions on the packet). You could slice or grate the manchego cheese at this point too.

Take the roasted aubergine halves and carefully remove the flesh from the skin, trying not to tear of puncture the skin, since this will be the container for the stuffing. You can leave a generous layer of aubergine on the skin. Once you have removed the flesh, chop it roughly. You could set some aside to make baba ganoush, since there is going to be too much stuffing to fit back into the skins, once you have added the sauce. Place the skins back onto the baking tray.

Stir the chopped roast aubergine flesh into the sauce, and stir in the chopped coriander leaves and add salt and pepper. All this is done off the heat. We don't want to destroy the delicate flavours of the herbs, or to overcook the meat and aubergine, and it will all be warmed up again in the oven at the end.

Reheat the oven to 200° C (180 if fan). Now add a thin layer of couscous into each aubergine skins on the baking trays, then fill up generously with the sauce. Fit in as much as you can, then cover with a thin layer of sliced manchego cheese, then sprinkle a little papricón on top. Return to the oven, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese starts to brown. Remove from oven and serve!


Serve with salad (in the picture with green leaves in a dressing of English extra virgin rapeseed oil, Banyuls vinegar and white miso), or with more couscous (maybe mixed with some left-over stuffing).

Alternative options

Vegetarian: I've successfully made this a couple of times for vegetarian guests. It works fine without the lamb. You could add chick peas (add these to the sauce with the chopped aubergine), and some sweet pepper (chopped and gently fried in olive oil in place of the lamb).

Quinoa: instead of the couscous, you could use quinoa seeds. These take a bit longer to cook, but it's an interesting variation.