Our palate tends to crave dishes that are inspired by our Middle Eastern friends. The recipes are full of warm and sultry spices that you imagine stumbling upon in the open air markets in Persian countries. The flavors wrap around you with each bite, filling you with warmth and comfort. Our pantry is stocked with chilies from Morocco, Turkey, Aleppo; as well as exotic seasonings such as za’atar, sumac, dukkah, cumin, and cardamom. This Lentil Stew with Burnt Eggplant recipe is one of our favorite dishes.
I often think about how those from other countries have molded our food culture. Most of our ancestors came from other countries, and they brought with them their treasured recipes to recreate here in America. There used to be a time when it was hard to find these 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 us? Most likely we would be a rather bland country eating meat, potatoes, and corn. Not too memorable, right? We would only be able to learn about other cultures and flavors by traveling to these faraway 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 of 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.
Recipe: Lentil Stew with Burnt Eggplant
1/2 lemon juiced
salt, to taste
1/2 cup whole milk greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon NY Shuk Rosie Harissa Spice
drizzle olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1 Turkish bay leave
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 cups Puy lentils
3 cups water
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/2 cup cilantro, finely minced
Preheat the oven to 475.
Cover a baking sheet with foil.
Pierce the eggplants all over with a fork and then set on the baking sheet. Place into the roast and cook until fragrant and soft.
This can take anywhere from 60 minutes up to 90 minutes; depending on the size of your eggplant and how hot your oven is. I start checking at the 45-minute mark and continue to do so every 15 minutes until the outside is evenly charred. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
Cut a slice into one side of the eggplant and scoop out the pulp into a small mixing bowl. Add the juice from 1/2 of a lemon, season with some salt and stir. Set aside.
Mix the yogurt with the Rosie Harissa spice and a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
I prepare the lentils while the eggplant is roasting.
In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, stir and cook until soft; about 3 minutes.
Add the 2 garlic cloves, carrot and celery. Stir and cook for 3 minutes over medium-low heat.
Add the sumac, bay leaves, thyme, and lentils. Stir, then add the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook over a very low simmer, until the lentils are tender but slightly firm. Do over not overcook or you will have mush.
Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining cloves of garlic, coriander, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and the cilantro.
To serve place a couple of spoonfuls of lentils into a bowl, top with some eggplant and yogurt.