Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts

July 08, 2013
By Holly Jennings

Stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts


What do stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts and sloppy joes have in common? Not much, on the face of it. One is an exotic, aromatic dish with Turkish origins found in the cookbook Jerusalem, and the other, a quintessential American school cafeteria food.


But on the palate, they’re not that far off, particularly when sloppy joe filling is made from scratch. Both ground meat fillings are enveloped in naturally sweet tomato-y sauce that’s heightened with additional sweet and sour notes and rounded out with a selection of herbs and spices. Following 1½ hours roasting time, the eggplant base becomes completely and utterly soft and absorbs the juices and seasoning of the lamb and pine nut stuffing. Although the soft American hamburger bun does not add a fruity touch, as does the eggplant, it does do a good job of absorbing the delicious sloppy joe sauce.


This is where the analogy ends. With elegant flavors suitable for any dinner occasion, especially when served with basmati rice and orzo (Jerusalem authors’ recommendation) and a simple salad of diced tomato and cucumber dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and generous squeeze of fresh lemon and seasoned with sea salt (this, my suggestion), stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts is altogether more adult than sloppy joes.


If you do not have fond memories of sloppy joes, please ignore my walk down school years’ food lane. This recipe is worth making, sloppy joe lover or not. Another reason not to dismiss this recipe? If you “think” you do not like eggplant. More than one supposed eggplant evader in my life has eaten this dish and discovered they like eggplant after all.


Serves 4 generously (see Note)

4 medium eggplants (about 2½ lb / 1.2 kg), halved lengthwise
6 tbsp / 90 ml olive oil
1½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 medium onions (12 oz /
340 g in total), finely chopped
1 lb / 500 g ground lamb
7 tbsp / 50 g pine nuts
⅔ oz / 20 g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
3 tsp superfine sugar
⅔ cup / 150 ml water
1½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.
  2. Place the eggplant halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon 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 the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix together the cumin, paprika, and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked.
  4. Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, the cinnamon sticks, and ½ teaspoon salt; mix well.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F / 195°C. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and roast for 1½ hours, by which point the eggplants should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice during the cooking, remove the foil and baste the eggplants with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.


Note: The authors say this dish serves 4 generously. Generously indeed. I feel it can easily serve 6 when accompanied with rice and salad, or 8 if additional dishes or soup is served.


Recipe reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Recipe introduction and photography by Holly Jennings.


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