Betinjan mashwi, which translates to roasted aubergine in English, is a Middle Eastern dish that consists of aubergine halves roasted in a high heat and then stuffed with an aromatic, hearty, and meaty tomato sauce.
A version of this dish made its way from the Levant to Moorish Spain centuries ago and is today considered part of southern Spanish cuisine. It is a wonderful example of how different worlds can come together and appreciate the same flavors and tastes, a most splendid synchronicity.
Just as different cultures have adapted this specialty to their tastes, my recipe reflects the fusion of cuisines that I grew up with. This roasted aubergine has always been a favorite at home and seems perfect for just about any occasion. Its flavors are rich, deep, comforting, and homey. Serve with a generous dollop of yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and pan-fried pine nuts, for the perfect balance of tastes.
INGREDIENTS/ MAKES 4 SERVINGS
2 large eggplants/aubergines, cut in halves from the root
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for roasting
1 onion, finely chopped
pinch chili flakes, to your taste
pinch dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 large tomatoes, finely chopped in a food processor*
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound/500 gr. minced beef or lamb
loose handful fresh coriander or parsley, to your taste
pan-fried pine nuts*
1. Preheat oven to 220C (425 F) and place the eggplant halves with the flesh exposed into a baking pan. Use a fork to poke several holes into each eggplant, spread about 2 teaspoons of olive oil over each, and season with salt. Roast for 50-55 minutes or until the surface is golden and slightly charred and the flesh is soft.
2. In the meantime, prepare your sauce. Drizzle the 3 tablespoons olive oil into a pan over medium-high heat and stir in the onion and chili flakes. Stir continuously for 5-7 minutes or until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the oregano, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir for another 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and tomato paste, stir, bring to a simmer, cover, and set the heat to low. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.
3. Then, add the meat and fresh coriander, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat for another 15 minutes while stirring occasionally.
4. Spoon out some of the flesh of each eggplant to make space for the meat filling. Stir the flesh into the meat sauce. Stuff the eggplants, top with a dollop of yogurt, your choice of garnish, and serve.
* You may substitute the fresh tomatoes with 2 cans of finely chopped tomatoes.
* To prepare the pine nuts, simply cook the pine nuts over high heat in a dry pan while stirring for about 2-3 minutes.