I received Jerusalem as a birthday present back in January and I love love love this cookbook. I've tried a few recipes and have been inspired to tweak a few others and every single morsel is to die for. On a more day-to-day level, it's introduced me to tahini paste and za'atar. I now use both on the regular and love that they're in my bag of kitchen tricks.
Preheat your oven to 425. The book calls for 4 medium eggplants halved. Only cooking for two with leftovers in mind, I got two medium-to-large eggplants and halved those. Drizzle the interior side of the eggplant halves with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast them cut side up for about 20 minutes. You'll turn down the oven to 375 once this pre-roasting is done.
While those roast away, start in on your filling. The filling entails:
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound ground lamb
7 tablespoons pine nuts (I dumped the rest of the bag that I had in our pantry)
Spice mix (see below)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
The spice mix includes cinnamon. I love cinnamon and I do enjoy it in savory dishes. That said... I made moussaka once and went heavy on the cinnamon per the recipe and it just ended up far too sweet for me. I simply cut the cinnamon and added za'atar instead.
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (again, I swapped with za'atar)
Add half of the spice mix and the onions to a pan with hot oil.
Cook until onions have softened a bit and then add your lamb, the pine nuts, and tomato paste. The recipe also calls for parsley and a teaspoon of sugar and I skipped both. I wanted this veering savory instead of sweet and I simply forgot to get parsley at the store. Cook until all of the lamb is cooked (up to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your pan).
Once the filling is complete, I delicately split it on top of the pre-roasted eggplants. The recipe calls for a roasting liquid - 2/3 c water, the other half of the spice blend, lemon juice, more sugar, cinnamon sticks, and tamarind - for the bottom of the pan. I again axed the sweet spices and I essentially doubled the water. I didn't want to come back after a long roasting time (90 minutes) and find that anything had burned up.
After 90 minutes at 375... a quick peek as they came out of the oven. If only I could add Smell-O-Vision to the blog. I want to bottle the scent of this dish and spray it on my pulse points.
I served the eggplant over white rice with a carrot/radish slaw. I wanted something bright and crunchy to pair with the rich sumptuous main course. Using my food processor, I shredded some carrots and radishes (and threw in some celery I had floating around the fridge). I dressed them with a lemon juice/tahini/red wine vinegar concoction. I wish I'd written down measurements for you but I was so tantalized by the aroma of spiced lamb wafting through the apartment that I forgot.
I remarked to J after we devoured these that the recipes from Jerusalem are meals you craft and labor over and put love into - these are not "quick and easy". They're not for weeknights (at least based on when we get home from work). They require time and care and are an absolute joy to eat at the end. The leftovers heated up were also fantastic. Food cooked with a lot of love is the most delicious, if you ask me.