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Stuffed Eggplants with Lamb and Pine nuts

Comfort food at its best.  This dish makes great use of the humble eggplant, infusing them with some classic Middle Eastern flavours and Aromas.  

INGREDIENTS

4 medium eggplants, halved lengthways

6 tbsp. olive oil

1 ½ tsp cumin

1 ½ tbsp. sweet paprika

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

2 medium onions, finely chopped

500 g minced lamb

50 g pine nuts

20 g flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tsp tomato puree

3 tsp caster sugar

150 ml water

1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp tamarind paste

4 cinnamon sticks

Salt and black pepper

METHOD

1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees fan forced.
2.  Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting tin large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tbsp. of the olive oil and season with 1 tbsp. of salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
3.  While the eggplants are cooking you can start making the stuffing by heating up the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon and add half of the spice mix to the pan, along with the onion.  Cook on a medium high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato puree, 1 tsp of the sugar, 1 tsp of the salt and some black pepper.  Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, remaining sugar, cinnamon sticks and ½ tsp of salt; mix well
4.  Reduce the oven to 195 degrees fan forced. Pour the spice mixture into the bottom of the eggplant roasting tin.  Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant.  Cover the tin tightly with foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes, by which point the eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice through the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some extra water if the sauce dries out.
Serve warm, not hot or at room temperature.