If you are a regular reader of our Valensbrae recipe column, you’ll know that we often rely on British cooks for our insights. This recipe, Lamb and Eggplant, was first published in BBC GoodFood, May 2016. Created by contributor Sophie Godwin, who joined the cookery team in 2015, launched her cookery career after first obtaining a joint History/English degree. First trained as a chef, Sophie is now a food writer and stylist! Along with Elena Silcock, Sophie runs Spirit and Salt a moveable modern European supper club.
What interested us in this recipe, beyond Sophie’s intriguing life story, was that it asked for a new [new to us] spice blend.
Ras el Hanout, explains Epicurious, is an Arabic phrase meaning ‘top of shelf’ or ‘best in the house’ . According to legend, it is a Moroccan spice blend created by North African spice dealers. They would mix together the best of what they had on hand to create an aromatic signature blend – in some instances 50 individual spices deep.
Today’s Ras el Hanout seems to also have regional flavourings. The Moroccan-inspired blend could consist of 24 spices – including cinnamon, chilies, coriander, Nigella seeds, cardamom and rose petals. While a Lebanese inspired Ras el Hanout blends only 7 spices including paprika, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg.
While there is no agreement on the exact recipe, middle-east cooks do agree that it is an excellent addition to lamb burgers.
Recreating the blend in the Valensbrae kitchen didn’t appeal to us. A quick internet search revealed that the PC Black Label has Ras el Hanout and some wonderful suggestions on how to use it, including:
- As a bold new chip dip, stir PC Black Label Ras el Hanout into sour cream along with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a touch of salt.
- For flavourful compound butter, stir PC Black Label Ras el Hanout and chopped fresh chives into softened unsalted butter. Roll into a log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, then cut into thin rounds and let melt atop grilled or roasted lamb or fish.
- As salad vinaigrette, marinate sherry vinegar with PC Black Label Ras el Hanout and finely diced shallots. Whisk in PC 100% Pure Grapeseed Oil, and a touch each of finely minced garlic and salt.
A new lamb recipe. A new spice recipe. And a new food writer to follow. What could be better?
Lamb-Stuffed EggplantServes: 4
Pair with a Chianti and green salad
- 4 medium eggplants, cut in half lengthways and scored on a diagonal
- 2½T olive oil
- 1 pound of ground lamb
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1t paprika
- 2t Ras el Hanout
- 1/4C sultana raisins
- 1/4C pine nuts
- 1/2C chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place eggplant halves on a baking tray. Drizzle about 2T of the oil over them and season well. Cover with foil and roast for until tender, approximately 50 mins.
Heat remaining oil in a frying pan. Add lamb, breaking down the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Fry until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mince has started to brown, about 5-6 min.
Add onion and spices and cook for another 5 mins until the meat is completely brown and has become caramelised and sticky. Add the sultanas, pine nuts and parsley, season to taste, then set aside.
Carefully scoop most of the flesh out of the aubergines and add it to the lamb, then refill each aubergine with the mixture. Return to the oven for 8-10 mins, until piping hot.