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overhead view of platter of stuffed eggplant with lamb and saffron rice garnished with mint and cilantro

Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Saffron Rice


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  • Author: Stacey
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 portions 1x

Description

If you’ve been thinking you need to eat more eggplant, you should make this outstanding stuffed eggplant with lamb and saffron rice.


Ingredients

Scale

1/4 cup saffron water (1/4 teaspoon of saffron threads soaked in 1/4 cup of warm or room temp. water)

3 medium eggplants, sliced in half lengthwise

Olive oil for brushing eggplant

Salt to season eggplant

2 tablespoons mint, chopped fine & divided

2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped fine & divided

1 teaspoon garlic, finely diced (approx. 1 medium clove)

1/2 to 3/4 cup onion, finely diced (about 1/2 a medium onion, plus a chunk)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 lb ground lamb

2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout spice

2 tablespoons saffron water

1 lemon, cut in half

For the rice:

1 cup basmati rice (I used extra-long grain)

1 tablespoon butter

Salt

For the lentils (these are optional):

1/4 cup green lentils (optional)

For the yogurt topping (optional):

3/4 cup plain yogurt

Juice from half a lemon

1 teaspoon mint


Instructions

  1. Add ¼ teaspoon of saffron threads to ¼ cup of room temperature or slightly warm water. Stir once or twice gently. Let the saffron sit aside and steep while you do the other prep. 
  2. Prep your pots with the lentils in one pot (if you’re making, it’s optional) and the rice in another. Follow the package instructions for both. Plan your time. The eggplant takes 30-35 minutes to roast in the oven. You can start both the rice and lentils around the same time you put the eggplant in the oven. 
  3. The lentils are optional and the recipe is great with or without them. Make sure to rinse them first. Then just boil them like pasta and don’t worry about the ratio of water to lentils. It doesn’t matter. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer, lid on, for 15-20 minutes. Check to make sure they are tender. If not, cook a little longer. Remove from heat and run through a strainer. Put them in a bowl, hit it with a pinch of salt, mix and set aside for later.
  4.  Cook rice in your rice cooker or a pot on the stovetop. I do usually use my rice cooker, but since this is only 1 cup of rice I used a pot with water, butter and salt. 
  5. Cut the tips off your eggplant then slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. With a small paring knife, score the eggplant on the diagonal with your cuts about one inch apart. Don’t cut through the skin on the bottom. Rotate the eggplant and cut in the opposite direction on the diagonal to make a crisscross pattern. My video shows this well. 
  6. Brush olive oil on the crisscross side of the eggplant then season with a light sprinkling of salt. Turn the eggplant so it’s facing cut-side down and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 30-35 minutes depending on the size of your eggplant. A fork test works well here to check for tenderness. 
  7. Chop the mint fine. I stack the mint leaves on top of each other (like when I cut basil). Roll the stacked leaves like a cigar, then slice the mint into ribbons first then chop down finer from there. 
  8. Chop the top part of your cilantro bunch off then dice down from there. 
  9. Dice the garlic fine. 
  10. Dice the onion fine. 
  11. Mix one tablespoon of tomato paste with a splash of water in a small bowl. 
  12. Heat two large pans on medium-to-high heat. One pan for cooking the lamb – no oil needed here. And one pan with a teaspoon or so of olive oil for the onions and garlic. 
  13. For the ground lamb, cook for about 7-8 minutes until crumbly and crispy. You’ll need to continually chop the lamb while cooking to get it small and crumbly. I also like it to get a little crispy too. 
  14. For the onions, add a little salt and pepper and stir the onions a few minutes until slightly translucent, then add garlic to the center of the pan and add a splash more olive oil if needed. Let it sit there a minute, then mix with the onions and cook another minute or so until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then turn off the heat. 
  15. Toward the end of cooking the lamb, drain most of the fat from the pan, but leave a little there. Depending on the brand of lamb there may be a ton of fat or only a little. Tilt the pan carefully, spoon out the fat and put it in a bowl. 
  16. Once the lamb is crispy and crumbly, add the onion and garlic mixture, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of the mint, 1 teaspoon of the cilantro, the Ras el Hanout spice, and two tablespoons of saffron water. Mix everything together until well combined. Test for seasoning and hit it with a little salt (maybe ¼ teaspoon), then one final mix and you’re done.
  17.  The yogurt mix is optional. You could just spoon on dollups of plain, whole milk yogurt or serve it on the side. But if you’d like, mix ¾ cup of plain yogurt with juice from half a lemon and 1 teaspoon of chopped mint. Mix together and serve with eggplant (on top, on the side – whatever you like). 
  18. Add about one cup or so of the cooked basmati rice to a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of the saffron water and mix with the rice until it all turns yellow. 
  19. In a larger mixing bowl, add the remaining cooked basmati rice, then the saffron rice and mix together. 
  20. Add the lentils (if you’re using) and the lamb mixture and mix everything together well. If there is any saffron water left, add it to the bowl and mix.
  21. Place the cooked eggplant on a platter and spoon the saffron rice and lamb mixture on top of each eggplant. Add a dollup of the yogurt mixture to the top or use a squeeze bottle to drizzle on top. Garnish with the remaining mint and cilantro. Cut the other half of the lemon into 3-4 pieces and use to garnish platter. Serve immediately. Spoons work best for eating these so you can scoop out the eggplant flesh easily. I wouldn’t recommend eating the skin.