"A Jewish Dish of Eggplants Stuffed with Meat"

Hélène Jawhara Piñer
Recipe by
Hélène Jawhara Piñer

This dish is from the Kitāb al-ṭabīẖ region of Spain. For me, this is the recipe that brings together the largest number of features of the Sephardic Jews' diet: eggplants, stuffing, a long cooking time, and a particular aesthetic. This recipe is the longest of all, and it is also technically difficult. Eggs are used in different forms: whites for binding, hard-boiled yolks for decorating. The ingredients list is long and three different pots are used, so that certain ingredients are kept separate. Pine nuts are added at the end, as well as rose water. The addition of acidic liquids at several different times during the preparation (and in large quantities) is noteworthy, as it points to a predilection for tangy flavors by Sephardic Jews: vinegar, including a "spicy" kind, and murrī, a sauce created by the long fermentation of bread in water, salt, and various spices.

5 small or medium eggplants
For the ground meat:
1⁄2 lb. ground meat (beef or lamb)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
egg whites
1 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
Pot 1:
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup mixed onions
2 cloves chopped garlic
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp rose water
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1 Tbsp etrog or lemon leaves
1 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
¼ cup water
Pot 2 and 3:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
1⁄2 tsp ginger
3 sprigs of oregano
3 strands of rue
1⁄2 Tbsp etrog leaves (or lemon)
¼ cup fennel tips
1 Tbsp almonds, chopped
1⁄2 cup chickpeas, cooked
2 saffron strands
4 cups water
3 egg yolks, hard boiled

Cook the eggplants in salted boiling water for 20 minutes. Cut them into equal halves lengthwise. Hollow them out, taking care not to damage the skin since it will be stuffed.

Add the ground meat to a large bowl with the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and 2 egg whites. Add the flesh of the eggplants. Fill the eggplant skins with this stuffing. You can put breadcrumbs over the eggplant to make it crunchier.

Prepare three pots:

In the first pot, add all ingredients and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.

In the second pot, add all ingredients minus the egg yolks, and place half of the stuffed eggplants on top. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Decorate the contents of this pot with the chopped egg yolks.

Do the same for the third pot, placing the other half of the stuffed eggplants on top. Garnish with black pepper and a fresh egg yolk.

Bring all three pots to the table. Serve the eggplants from the second and third pots, then pour the sauce from the first pot on top of each serving.