Split Stuffed Aubergines
The Turks do love a stuffed vegetable. In one restaurant in Istanbul, I had a red pepper, an aubergine, a gourd and a plum – it sounds like the hungry caterpillar, I know. These are similar to Greek versions stuffed with herbs and rice, but this is very Turkish, with pomegranate molasses and seeds, pine nuts, chilli and lamb.
- 4 medium aubergines
- 5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 12g/2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp pul biber
- ¾ tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 500g minced lamb
- 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 50g pine nuts
- handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 175ml water
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- Seeds 1 pomegranate
Heat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and arrange in a roasting tin, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes.Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 180°C/gas 4.
Start to make the filling while the aubergines are cooking. Fry the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes until softened.Mix the paprika, pul biber, cumin seeds and ground cinnamon together and add two-thirds of this mixture to the pan, together with the chilli flakes. Fry for 1-2 minutes, then increase the heat and add the lamb.Cook until browned, then add the chopped tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste, the pine nuts and half of the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
When the aubergines are ready, remove from the oven and carefully slit the flesh lengthways, without cutting all the way through the skin. Top each half with an eighth of the lamb mixture. In a bowl, mix the water with the remaining spice mix, olive oil (2 tablespoons), tomato paste (1 tablespoon) and the pomegranate molasses.Add this liquid to the roasting tin around the aubergines, cover the whole tin with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the aubergines are soft and the juices in the pan are syrupy. Serve the aubergines drizzled with the pan juices and scattered with the pomegranate seeds and the rest of the parsley.