Our palate tends to crave recipes that are often inspired by our Middle Eastern friends. These recipes are flavored with warm and sultry spices that you can find in the open air markets in Persian countries. The flavors wrap around you with each bite, filling you with warm and comfort. Our pantry is stocked with chilies from Morocco, Turkey, Aleppo; as well as exotic seasonings such as zaatar, sumac, dukkah, cumin, and cardamom. An assortment of harissa, not to mention chickpeas, lentils, jars of tahini, bunches of fresh cilantro, thick, savory yogurt, are also tucked away for quick and flavorful meals. Unfortunately, for us there are not many options for eating out at places that offer Persian food, so we make it home. This Lentil Stew with Burnt Eggplant recipe is one of our favorites, and it can go from dinner to breakfast!
I often think about how those from other countries have molded our food culture. Most of us, our ancestors came from other countries, and they brought with them their treasured recipes to recreate here in America. There use to be a time when it was hard to find the ingredients, and we had to improvise, and recipes have evolved. What would our food be like if our friends from far away countries were not allowed to live amongst use? Most likely we would be a rather bland country eating meat, potatoes, and corn; not to memorable, right? We would only be able to learn about other cultures and flavors by traveling to these far away places, instead of welcoming them into ours.
This recipe for Lentil Stew with Burnt Eggplant was inspired by one of my favorite restaurants in London, Honey & Co. If you are going to London, I cannot recommend this spot enough; we eat there every year and are never disappointed. Their dishes are inspired by recipes from Jerusalem where the owners grew up; these are flavors of what their family made or from the street food they have enjoyed. Memories from childhood! When I was in London this past November, it was cold and wet night, and while I wanted to eat everything on the menu, this dish stood out. I was not disappointed and had hoped the recipe would be in the cookbook of theirs I had at home. Just in case it wasn’t, I jaunted down the flavors that were dancing around on my taste buds and was prepared to recreate at home. It was smoky, slightly spicy, had hints of cumin and thyme and was light but hearty. Pure comfort food.