In Lebanese cuisine, rice or bulgur wheat are common accompaniments or included in casseroles and stews.
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 large aubergine, sliced lengthways into 5mm thick strips
100g pine nuts
300g minced lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
5cm cinnamon stick
0.25 tsp ground allspice
350g basmati rice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Brush a little oil on both sides of the aubergine slices. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat, and when smoking, add the aubergines. Griddle for 2–3 minutes on each side until tender and covered in charred griddle lines. Set aside.
2. Heat a frying pan or skillet over a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and gently toast, shaking the pan occasionally, for 2–3 minutes, or until the pine nuts are golden brown. Transfer the nuts to a plate and set aside.
3. In the same pan heat 2 tbsp of the oil, over a medium heat, then add the lamb, onion and garlic. Fry for 10–12 minutes, or until the lamb has started to turn golden, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon and allspice, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5–6 minutes, or until the tomatoes have started to break down.
4. Put the rice into a large bowl, cover with cold water and stir, and then set aside for 5 minutes to soak. Tip the rice into a colander and give it a really good rinse under the cold tap, until the water runs clear. This washes the starch out of the rice and ensures you get lovely separated grains.
5. Tip the washed rice into the pan with the spiced lamb and stir in 600ml boiled water. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10–15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is almost cooked but still has a little bite. Scatter over half the pine nuts and mix everything together with a fork.
6. Preheat the oven to 180 C/Gas 4. Drizzle the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a little oil. Arrange half the charred aubergines across the bottom of the dish, spread all of the rice and lamb mixture on top and then lay the other half of the aubergines on top of the rice. Scatter over the remaining toasted pine nuts and drizzle over a little more oil. Cover with tin foil and bake for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Fire and Spice, published by Watkins Publishing
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