I met Bethany “IRL” (in real life) just as I started this blog over 3 years ago. She was actually one of the reasons why I started my blog back then. Well, not her personally, but the second edition of Food Blogger Connect that she is the founder of and that I was attending in London that summer. I had been a giant fan of her Dirty Kitchen Secrets food blog where I went for inspiration and guidance on Middle Eastern recipes. I had “met” her virtually a few months prior through the magic of twitter and we had become friends, which is how I found myself flying halfway across the planet to stay at her house in Brighton for a few days before the London FBC conference started. I remember sitting in the train that was taking me from Heathrow to Brighton and thinking what an amazing thing the internet was in helping connect people. I also remember thinking – albeit very briefly – that this was completely crazy and that her and her lovely husband Chris could be serial killers for all I knew!
I’m happy to say that they weren’t and that I had a fabulous time with them. The first thing Beth did was feed me, of course! She had some leftover grilled chicken and some of her famous toum (garlic) sauce that will rip the roof of your mouth off in such delightful and delicious torture, leaving you wanting more. I spent a few days alongside Beth, watching her organize the last details of what was to become one of the world’s leading food blogging conferences and helping out where and when I could. Bethany had grace, charm, talent and determination which I knew would some day lead her down whatever path she chose to be on.
Fast forward 3 years and here I am standing in my kitchen with her book in my hands! Every single Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian recipe in Pomegranates & Pine Nuts (the North American version of The Jewelled Kitchen) sounds delicious and if I were to bookmark everything I wanted to make, the whole book would be filled with post-its. It is filled with familiar recipes that I grew up with as well as new and exciting ones. The gorgeous photography is the work of another friend I met at FBC, talented food photographer Sárka Babická. I chose to make this particular recipe because it’s eggplant season and my dad has always said that one should never wonder what to cook when it’s eggplant season! There is such a gorgeous variety of this wonderful vegetable at the market right now so take advantage of it!
Eggplant, veal and yogurt crumble
Recipe from Pomegranate & Pine Nuts by Bethany Kehdy, Duncan Baird Publishers
Serves 4 / Preparation time: 25 minutes / Cooking time: 50 minutes
I made very few changes to the original recipe. I replaced the veal with beef, used one of my very own canned tomatoes from last year’s tomato “making” session and omitted the pomegranate seeds since they are not in season just yet.
- 4 teaspoons tahini
- 1 garlic bulb, cloves separated & finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 ¾ cups Greek yogurt at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts
- 14 ounces ground veal
- 2 teaspoons allspice
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes or chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried mint
- 1 can (15 oz.) crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 4 eggplants, about 2 ¼ pounds total weight
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 small loaves stale Arabic (pita) bread
- Chopped mint leaves, to sprinkle
- Pomegranate seeds to sprinkle
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400F. Meanwhile, put the tahini, 1 teaspoon of the garlic, the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of water into a bowl and mix well. Add the yogurt and mix until the mixture forms a smooth, creamy texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside at room temperature to let the flavours develop.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook about 4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add half the pine nuts and cook 1 to 2 minutes until lightly coloured, then add the veal, allspice, Aleppo pepper flakes, dried mint and the remaining garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the meat is brown. Pour in the tomatoes and stir well to combine, then reduce the heat to low and cook 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the pomegranate molasses, mixing well to incorporate. Cover and set aside.
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, keeping the stems intact, because they make moving the eggplants easier, as well as being more aesthetically pleasing. Transfer the eggplants to a baking sheet, skin-side down. Puncture the flesh of each eggplant a couple of times with a fork, taking care not to tear through the skin. Rub each eggplant half with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven about 20 minutes until the flesh is golden brown and soft.
Remove the eggplants from the oven (keep the oven on) and, using a fork, gently press down the flesh to mash. Transfer two eggplant halves to each of the four plats. Put the Arabic (pita) bread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven 2 to 3 minutes until golden, turning over halfway. Check the bread every minute to make sure it colours and crisps evenly.
Toast the remaining pine nuts in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes until golden and fragrant, shaking the pan often.
Assemble the eggplants by spooning 2 tablespoons of the meat and tomato mixture into each cavity and pouring 2 tablespoons of the yogurt dressing over. Crumble the toasted Arabic bread over, sprinkle with mint and pomegranate seeds and serve with the toasted pine nuts.
Pomegranate & Pine Nuts, the North American version of The Jewelled Kitchen, will be available in North America on October 1st, 2013. You can pre-order it on Amazon here.