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Meat stew with fried aubergines
There is something beautiful about aubergines (or eggplants as some might call it) and meat stews. Eggplants are commonly available most of the year in North America, it can though can be seasonal vegetable in other parts of the world. This recipe adds a bit of twist to the slowcook method which benefits much in taste, by frying the aubergines prior to cooking with the stew. It is a much loved recipe in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. If you like eggplants, you can try this alternative method. But beware, it will taste just too good!
- 3 large eggplants
- 1 lbs (½ kg) meat for stewing (lamb or veal)
- 1 onion (or half white and half red onion)
- 1 potato
- 1 carrot
- 1 tomato
- 1 lbs (½ kg) mushrooms
- 1 cup of green peas (either fresh or frozen)
- 1 tablespoon sweet red pepper paste (or simply tomato paste)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
- A bunch of dill (and/or parsley)
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 table spoons of vegetable or beef broth (optional)
- 2-3 cups vegetable oil for frying the eggplants
Preparing the eggplants
Peel the skin of the eggplants, but only partially, to give them a striped look. Slice them around a finger thick and further cut them into large cubes. Keep in mind that the eggplants will shrink when cooked, determine the size of the cubes accordingly.
In a large bowl, mix a tablespoon of salt with water and place the eggplants cubes in salty water for about 20 minutes to half an hour. This will absorb the pungent taste of the eggplants and prevent darkening while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Preparing the veggies
Chop the potato, onion, carrot and mushrooms in large cubes as well. Take the eggplants out of the salty water and drain well. Be careful to dry them a bit with a paper towel, water droplets will explode when it contacts hot oil in the frying pan.
Frying the eggplants
Bring 2-3 cups of vegetable oil to a hot temperature in a deep frying pan and fry the eggplant cubes, but only halfway. Take them out as they start to turn to a golden yellow color but still retaining the green color on the sides of the slices. Do not overcook them, as we will continue cooking them in the oven with the other ingredients.
Lay the eggplants on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil, and put aside.
Cooking the rest of the ingredients
In a large and deep pot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-low heat. Slice the garlic and fry them a bit. Add a tablespoon of sweet red pepper (or plain tomato) paste, and continue frying the garlic. Cut the tomato into cubes and them to the pot along with onions and carrots, then meat, potatoes and mushrooms. Mix the ingredients well and continue cooking them slowly on medium-low heat.
Meanwhile, boil a liter of water and prepare the broth, using vegetable or beef broth in powder format. Although this is optional, it will give much taste to the dish. Add the broth to the pot and mix well. If you don't use broth, you can just add water to top the ingredients.
Add the fried aubergines and green peas to the mix. Sprinkle equal amounts of salt and sugar to taste, as well as a bit of black pepper. Finally, add as much water as necessary to top all the ingredients in the pot.
Chop a bunch of dill and add it to the pot. You can also use parsley, alone or with the dill. If you have none of them available, try your favorite herbs. Both oregano and rosemary go well with meat dishes, but they are a bit pungent when cooked, so use them sparingly.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 225 °F (around 110 °C). The whole aim is to cook the meat slowly, so it will be as tender as possible. The lower the heat and the longer the cooking time, the softer the meat will be. Try 225 °F for 2 hours, or 275 °F (around 135 °C) for 1 hour and a half. Cover the pot and place it in the oven, and forget about it for the next hour or so.
Hope you enjoy, and be careful not to eat your fingers!