A Taste of Persia: Lamb Khoresh with Eggplant

I’ve had a love affair with eggplant, or aubergines, for as long as I can remember. And when I think of eggplant I’m thinking first of the slender, long Japanese eggplant like the ones in this photo, since those are what I grew up with. In Hawaii, we found locally grown eggplant all year round — what a blessing that was!

In her book, A Taste of Persia, Najmieh K. Batmanglij, shares her love for eggplant tied to a memory of frying them with her mother to make a luscious aromatic stew, called Khoresh in Farsi. This slim volume introduces the reader to the most popular dishes of the rich Persian repetoire, including 13 recipes for various khoreshes. I can’t recommend it highly enough, although it can be challenging to find some of the more unusual ingredients called for in the recipes. But well worth the hunt.

This particular khoresh recipe drew me in because it utilizes eggplants that are fried whole, then added to the stew with the stem end intact. It makes for quite a dramatic presentation on your plate. After frying, he eggplant may be peeled or left unpeeled, depending on the diameter of the vegetable. The eggplant used in these photos were nearly pencil-thin and about 10” long — it is a variety I’ve most often seen used to make the Philippine vegetable stew known as Pinakbet. Since the eggplant were so small, the skin softens and becomes meltingly tender, even when fried, so the eggplant were left unpeeled.

Eggplant and lamb have a natural affinity for each other, and although Ms. Batmanglij allows that other meats may be substituted for lamb in her khoresh recipes I hope you try this one with lamb. You will love it!

From A Taste of Persia by Najmieh K. Batmanglij
Serves 4 persons

5 TBL unsalted butter or ghee
3 small onions, thinly sliced (used 1 large)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 lb/455g fairly lean lamb, beef or boneless, skinless chicken, cut into thin strips
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 4 TBL hot water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
3 cups/483g fresh or canned pureed tomatoes
1 cup unripe grapes or 4 TBL fresh lime juice (used lime juice)
2lbs/900g long Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4” strips
(I used ultra-thin baby eggplants)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 TBL oil
1 small tomato

Heat 3 TBL of butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and stir-fry 5-8 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and meat, and fry for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add salt, pepper, saffron water, and turmeric. Add tomato puree and unripe grapes or lime juice, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare eggplant and pre-heat the oven.

Peel eggplant and slice them lengthwise into quarters if they are large. Brush each side with egg whites to reduce oil needed for frying.

Heat remaining 2 TBL of butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Fry eggplant until golden brown on each side, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In the same skillet you fried the eggplant, heat 1 TBL of oil over medium heat and saute the tomato whole.

Transfer meat to oven-proof casserole, and arrange eggplant and tomato on top. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake 15 minutes longer.

Taste and adjust seasoning for balance of salt and sourness (add lime juice).

Serve with saffron steamed or plain basmati rice. We also added a yogurt salad.

Visit Ms. Batmanglij’s site for a preview of and more recipes from this book.