The Potato of Persia
Khoresht Bademjan (Iranian Lamb and Eggplant Stew)
Eggplant is beautiful and it is in season now at my local Mar Vista Farmers Market. The are so many varieties of eggplants and the various shapes and gorgeous purples look like jewels laid out on the market tables. These eggplants are visually tempting - a far cry from the big, purplish-black globe eggplants that are loaded up with oil and cheese before eaten. I have found two varieties that I particularly enjoy given that they roast up nicely (one of the healthiest and most delicious ways to enjoy eggplant) and they provide a good skin to flesh ratio in each bite: The Japanese variety, which is long, skinny, and a brighter, lighter purple; and the Italian variety, which is a smaller version of the traditional globe eggplant.
Eggplant is literally prehistoric. This fruit (really, it's classified as a berry), has been growing in Asia since before recorded history and remains extremely popular in Arabic, Mediterranean, Asian and Indian cooking. I'm guessing it's popularity comes from the fact that it is fairly easy to grow and that it is meaty, thus providing a good and inexpensive alternative to meat. Eggplant is a great source of fiber, low in fat and carbohydrates, and provides a good dose of several nutrients including folate and Vitamin K.
This recipe is delicious, healthy, and it provided me an opportunity to expand my repertoire of Persian recipes. Eggplant is, and has been, so prevalent in Persian cuisine, that it is sometimes referred to as 'the potato of Persia'. Persian, or in this case, specifically Iranian, cuisine has a focus on fresh vegetables and spices, two things highly valued here at the RamblinDish. Food is also an important element of the culture in Iran in which recipes are passed down through many generations. I have not been, but a good friend is there now working to open up tourism for the country to the 'Western World'. So maybe a visit is in the future. I have heard, from Anthony Bourdain, (ok, well, I saw it on his show) that the Iranian people are very welcoming and love to entertain in their homes with big feasts.
So back to this recipe. It's a little unorthodox because of the roasting of the eggplant (it's traditionally fried), but it's nutritious, and does not require much effort. Kind of perfect for a Sunday evening when you are puttering around the house getting ready for the week.
I hope that you enjoy it!
Koresht Bademjan (Iranian Lamb Eggplant Stew)
2 lbs cubed lamb leg or shoulder
1/4 t tumeric
pinch of cinnamon
6 T. tomato paste
3 Italian eggplant (about 3 cups, chopped)
Heat about 1 - 2T. olive oil in a dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until opaque, 5 - 7 mins. Push to the side and add the lamb. Sprinkle with salt, a bit of pepper and the spices. Push to the side and add the tomato paste. Stir the paste around in a small circle for a minute or two until it toasts a bit. Stir everything together and add 1 - 2 cups of water (I like sturdy stew, so used one cup) and add the juice of the lemon. Put the heat at ML, cover, and cook 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place the cubed eggplant on a roasting pan and roast with a bit of olive oil at 400 for about 25 minutes. Stir the eggplant midway through.
Stir the eggplant into the soup after the hour is up and lightly simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.