Lamb or Feta Aubergine Bake
Lamb or Feta Aubergine Bake
I took my eldest daughter back to University last week. She’s moved in to her very own (well, rented) house for the first time in her life. I’m sure I’ve been far too guilty of shielding my children from the realities of day to day living so it may come as a shock that wi-fi doesn’t come as standard and that the loo doesn’t clean itself. What is clear though is how exciting it is to feel so independent – it’s enviable, and that excitement with the every day business of life is one I feel I should embrace a little more. So, in the spirit of embracing everydayness here is an everyday recipe that tastes far from everyday.
I’ve fiddled around with this recipe a few times in an attempt to simplify it, because simple is good, right? The lamb version is utterly delicious, the feta comes very close, though if you don’t eat meat you’ll never know. I have a good friend who can’t bear what he calls the ‘sliminess’ of aubergines but personally that’s what I like – the way they fall apart when you cook them. Make sure you cook them long enough or they won’t do that fall apart thing and that would be a waste.
In nutritional terms, aubergines are part of the nightshade family of vegetables – which also includes potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Some people have an aversion to nightshades since they can increase inflammation in the body – they are most readily associated with increased pain in arthritis so it’s definitely worth considering cutting them out if you suffer from arthritis or any other inflammatory condition (inflammatory conditions generally end with ‘itis’). You might like to know that tobacco is also a nightshade.
4 tsp harissa
2 red onions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp tomato purée
400g lamb mince
240g brown rice
approx 400ml vegetable stock
50g pine nuts
100g pomegranate seeds
Pre heat the oven to 200C. Start by placing the split aubergines in two roasting tins – one for the veggies, one for the meat eaters. You want the aubergines to have a little space around them (for the rice, later) so don’t tuck them in too snug. Score the aubergines diagonally with a knife, cutting down a little but by no means all the way. Mix together the harissa with enough olive oil to brush the aubergines with – they soak up a lot of olive oil – but feel free to be reasonably liberal. Once the aubergines have a coating of harissa put them in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Keep the oven on but turn it down to 180C.
At this point you could start cooking the rice, which you want to cook for about 20 minutes – so it’s almost cooked but not quite.
Meantime, when you’ve chopped the red onion, fry it in a little olive oil until it’s all transparent and cooked through. About 7-8 minutes. Add the spices and the tomato puree and cook for a further couple of minutes. Split this onion mixture in half, leave half in the pan and with the other half spread it evenly over 2 of the aubergines. Next, add the lamb mince to the remaining onion in the pan and cook and stir until the lamb is completely brown and cooked through. Now put this mixture on top of the two remaining aubergines. You’ll find that there is a lot – maybe too much – but since lamb tends to come in 400g packs I’ve planned the recipe around that. If you feel the aubergine is too overloaded leave some in the pan and reheat when serving as an added extra.
Now, you’ll have drained the rice if it’s time is up. So, place it around the aubergines evenly. Add some stock – the amount is a little bit flexible – you want enough for the rice to continue to cook and for the dish to stay moist but you don’t want it swimming. If in doubt, add less and keep an eye.
To the veggie aubergines you now want to add your feta, which you can crumble or chop depending on your will. Pop some foil over both tins and put them back in for another 20 – 30 mins, during which time the aubergines will go super soft, the rice will infuse with the flavour and loveliness will ensue. I sometimes take off the foil towards the end of the cooking so the feta, and to a lesser extent, the lamb will brown.
Now, the final flourishes are to sprinkle on the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds and serve tout de suite. With salad is nice.
P.s You’ll see from the pictures that I did one with quinoa, for fun. If you want to do the same I recommend adding cooked quinoa 10 minutes before the end of cooking – to heat through and soak up the juices. It was good.