Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Middle East on a plate: lamb with smoky eggplant puree and Segheso Sonoma Zinfandel

This dish is Middle East on a plate, I'll tell you. Velvety, smoky eggplant puree, lamb bathed in oriental spices, fresh herbs and fruity burst from pomegranate seeds. 

There are colours, tastes and textures. There is joy. For best (read: smokiest) result grill the aubergines over open flame or BBQ. If that's not an option (well, it is March on this side of the planet after all...) , you can add smoke aroma that's sold in the shops. 

Serves four:

Lamb on smoky eggplant puree:


1 red onion, finely chopped
3 (large) cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a couple of tbsp oil, for frying
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp paprika
500 g ground lamb (or beef)
1,5 tsp dried oregano
1,5 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
3 tomatos, blanched, peeled and roughly chopped
salt, pepper
1,5-2 tbsp pomegranate molasses 

To serve: sumac, seeds of 1/2 pomegranate, fresh parsley

Prep the tomatos. Cut a cross into them, place in boiling water for a couple of minutes, scoop out of the water, let cool, peel, remove the hard stalk and chop.

Heat the oil in a pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté them for a couple of minutes. Then add spices and sauté them, too, for a couple of minutes. Then add mince and brown.

Add dried herbs, tomato concentrate and chopped up tomatos. Bring the heat down to medium and leave simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Finally add pomegranate molasses, taste and season. 

Smoky eggplant puree:

4 largeish eggplants ( total weight around 1,4 kg)
30 g butter
1/2 dl flour (glutenfree if needed)
3  dl milk
pinch of nutmeg
salt, pepper
(liquid smoke aroma)

Heat the oven to the highest setting. Prick the eggplants all over and place on a tin foil-lined tray. grill under the broiler, turning every now and then, until the skin is crinkly and blackened - about 40 minutes. Let cool until not too to handle, cut pen, scoop out the flesh and place in a colander to drain while you prep the Béchamel sauce.

Melt butter in a pot until it just starts to foam (don't brown it!). In another pot heat the milk. Add flour into the butter and continue cooking over low heat for 5 minutes. Then start adding the milk, a little at a time continuously whisking. The sauce can be on the thick side as there's some moisture in the eggplants as well. 

Roughly chop the eggplants (or, if you want smooth, velvety consistency, blizz them up in a blender) and add into the Béchamel sauce. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper (and smoke aroma, if desired).

Spoon the lamb over the eggplant puree, sprinkle sumac on top and finish with the pomegranate seeds and freshly chopped parsley. And serve.

A dish this joyful deserves an equally joyful wine, too. Pinot Noir would be a great choice for just about any Middle Eastern dish (for recommendations see here and here), but the fruity burst from the pomegranate is also at home with Californian Zinfandel. Mine was Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel and what a fine specimen it was, too. 

It's got a light smokiness that pairs well with the smokiness of the eggplant puree, but such ripe tannins that, combined with the ripe berriness make the overall appearance almost jammy and prevent the tannins from being too overpowering. A great wine that would pair well with variety of dark meats and even game. 

The size (0,375 l) is also convenient for a smaller household, which is something I, for one, truly appreciate. For instance now my single person's fridge is home to three other opened and half-drunken bottles of wine...





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