Lamb with eggplant and chickpeas is adapted from one in Bowl Food (Murdoch Books), and is regularly cooked in cooler months. I started out making this exactly as it told me to, diligently following the instructions. It was delicious and a no-brainer. Follow the steps and everyone would be happy. Then disaster struck. The book was misplaced. I blamed all sorts of people for the loss, and eventually set upon the distant cousin hiding said book when visiting for the weekend. This shouldn’t be a major drama, but everyone still requested the dish, so it had the potential to cause havoc in an otherwise calm environment. And that’s when the adaptation came about, based on memory from times past. Said book was eventually found, quite a few years later, but on inspection now contained an inscription from cousin x, so maybe there was something in the blame game that had ensued.
I hesitate to call this dish a tagine – not a trace of a conical cooking pot in sight. So maybe the original name came from the spices that are used, making it somewhat north African in flavour: cumin, ginger, paprika and cinnamon. But what are the alternatives? Lamb and eggplant casserole? Lamb stew? Maybe it’s a tagine because it sounds a whole lot more exotic and impressive. Call it what you will: what’s in a name anyway?
I’ve added eggplant and chickpeas, which makes it even better than the original. Adding the eggplant at the beginning means it becomes a bit mushy, almost disintegrating in the sauce, which is great when you’re trying to hide vegetables from those who insist they don’t like it. If you don’t have powdered ginger, grate a knob of ginger into the spice paste along with the garlic. Beware, this dish takes a couple of hours to cook, so it means you have to be a bit more organised. But on the other hand, once it’s in the oven, you can enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Perfect for the weekend. And what’s even better, the leftovers can be turned into pies! Enjoy!
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ⅓ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 kg diced lamb
- 2 onions, sliced
- 375 mls stock (chicken or beef)
- 1 x 400g crushed tomatoes
- 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 1 small eggplant, chopped into large cubes
- ½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, seeded and halved
- zest of a lemon
- 1 x 400g chickpeas, drained
- 1 teaspoon honey
- couscous, to serve
- Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. (Although I cook this in the oven, it works well simmering on the top of the stove too.) Place the cumin, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt into a large bowl. Mix together. Add the chopped lamb and stir to coat. Leave to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Heat a heavy-based casserole dish over a medium heat. Cook the lamb in batches until browned. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Once all lamb is browned, set aside.
- Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes or until softened. You might find the spices have stuck to the bottom of the pan a bit, so add a splash of water to loosen.
- Return the meat to the pan. Add the tomatoes, stock, carrots, eggplant and coriander. Bring to the boil, cover with lid, and place in the oven, for 1 hour.
- Remove the lid and cook for 45 minutes or until the liquid reduces and thickens. Add the olives, lemon zest, chickpeas and honey and reheat. Check the seasoning.
- Serve with couscous.