This is a Mediterranean spirited Tagine. It reminds me of the great lamb stews found from Morocco all the way to Afghanistan. I adapted it from a recipe in Paula Wolfort's great "The Food of Morocco" cookbook. Paula quotes chef Lucien Vanel as saying "Lamb, tomatoes, eggplant and garlic is a a combination before which we must all bow down!" I couldn't agree more.
2 medium size, ripe red tomatoes, halved, seeded and diced
Pinch of sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large tagine or stew pot over medium low heat. Add the meat, 1/2 tsp salt, and turmeric and cook for 15 minutes covered. Uncover and raise the heat to medium, boiling off the liquid and browning the meat lightly on all sides.
While the meat is cooking, use a spoon or mortar to mash together the crushed garlic and 1 tsp salt into a paste. Divide in half and reserve one half. To the other, blend in the ginger, black pepper, and saffron water, then slowly stir in 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 cup hot water.
Also while the meat is cooking, preheat your oven to 375.
Trim the top and bottom of each eggplant. Peel 4 or 5 vertical strips from each eggplant, making them striped. Cut each eggplant in half width wise. Then cut each half into 4 thick strips length wise. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant strips and let them drain in a non reactive colander or on paper towels for 45 minutes to 1 hour if time allows.
When the meat is browned, add this spice and water mixture to the meat along with the onions and half the parsley and cilantro and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender.
Rub or spray a small amount of olive oil on the eggplant, place on a flat baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until soft.
In a blender, pulse the cooked eggplant, reserved garlic paste, 2 Tbsp of the remaining parsley and 2 Tbsp of the remaining cilantro, paprika, cumin and cayenne.
Add three Tbsp of olive oil to a skillet, bring to medium high heat, and add the diced tomatoes, 1 tsp salt, and the sugar and stir frequently for 5 minutes. Then add the eggplant mixture from the blender, lower the temp to low, and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until the moisture evaporates.
Add the eggplant to the lamb and mix to combine. Add the lemon juice gradually, stopping when the flavoring is right to your taste. Add up to 1/2 cup hot water if desired if the consistency is too thick. Sprinkle the remaining parsley and cilantro on top and serve.
Instead of mixing the lamb and eggplant together like a stew, put the lamb in the bottom of a serving plate or bowl, mix the lemon juice and hot water as desired into the eggplant mixture, and then pile the eggplant on top of the lamb. Then sprinkle with cilantro and parsley.
Instead of pureeing the eggplant, chop it into bite sized pieces. Add the tomatoes, remaining garlic mixture, and spices to the lamb after it has cooked for about 2 hours, then add the eggplant cubes 15 minutes later. The stew will be complete after 2 1/2 hours. The lemon juice is optional in this version, and you will probably use less than the full lemon if you do add it.