spiced lamb with aubergine and pine nuts

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In preparation for my life taking a turn for the nomadic (the movers come today, I have a few days at home, and then two months of subletting up here at the Mount before I move back to Wellington “permanently”, only to locum all over New Zealand for the last six months of the year, punctuated by travel, etc. etc.), I’m bringing back a few of my favourite old recipes from my very first food blog, Full Fat Friendly.

This lamb dish is a loosely adapted, deconstructed version of an Ottolenghi recipe that is as simple as a stirfry to prepare, making it perfect for a quick family weeknight dinner, or in my case, meal prep¬†for every other night this week. Thankfully, this freezes/reheats perfectly without compromise in texture, and the development of flavours gets better the longer it’s left in the fridge. Aubergine has got to be one of the most incredible vegetables: I find it practically inedible if merely partially cooked, but give me a charred, melt in your mouth piece of egg plant and I’ll be devouring it voraciously. If serving to fussy eaters (children), cut the cubes as small as possible to disguise them amongst the mince and pine nuts. Lamb mince is perhaps a little fattier and more expensive than the premium ground beef you may usually reach for, but it is vastly more flavoursome and decadent – and thankfully bulked out by vegetables.¬†Grind the spices fresh for the most fragrant of dishes – either by hand or in an electric grinder – just don’t be scooping the powders from packets!

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spiced lamb with aubergine and pine nuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (260g), diced
  • 1 brown onion (100g), finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp freshly crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • Salt
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp sweetener of choice (I used xylitol)
  • 1 handful freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 40g pine nuts

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large non-stick frypan over medium heat. Fry the eggplant in the oil, stirring frequently until it starts to brown and soften – this takes around 10 minutes or so.
  2. While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the spices by grinding the cumin seeds fresh, before combining them in a small bowl with the paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Set the cooked eggplant aside in a bowl to cool. Season liberally with salt.
  4. In the same pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil to fry the onion with the freshly crushed garlic, also over medium heat. Fry the onion for 10 minutes also, until it’s starting to go clear and soft. Add half of the spice mixture about halfway through cooking time.
  5. Once the onion is cooked, add the lamb mince, and tomato paste. Combine with the onion mixture and stir until the meat is cooked through. Season with more salt and the remaining half of the spice mixture. Squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding the zest of the lemon, freshly chopped parsley and the pine nuts.
  6. Add the fried eggplant and baby spinach, stirring to combine. To get the baby spinach down to a reasonable volume, I added a few tablespoons of water to help it steam.
  7. Turn off the heat, season further with more salt and stir through your sweetener of choice.
  8. Serve warm with a green salad, or refrigerate for up to 5 days (can also freeze) if using for lunches.
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