This has to be one of my favourite dishes from the Rick Stein series he did on Eastern Mediterranean cookery. I’ve made it a few times now and adapted the recipe ingredients and method slightly by using e.g. tinned rather than fresh tomatoes and chilli flakes as opposed to fresh chilli because it still delivers great flavour and easier prep. I wasn’t sold on the idea of the aubergine ‘mash’ to begin with but, trust me, it is delicious with the rich and spicy tomato, lamb and pepper stew and makes a welcome change from serving it with potatoes, rice or couscous. This recipe is enough to serve four but the stew freezes well so it’s worth making a big batch. The red pepper sauce that gives it that extra spicy kick, keeps for at least a week in the fridge and you can use the rest to pep up any number of pasta sauces or other dishes. Perfect with a glass of robust red wine – enjoy!
- Lamb stew: 850g lamb shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1 onion, chopped, 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped, 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced, 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish
- 1 tbsp red pepper paste: 2 red long, pointed peppers, 50g tomato paste, 1/2tsp salt, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 30ml olive oil
- Aubergine mash: 4 medium aubergines, 30g butter, 30g flour (I use spelt flour), 380ml milk, 75g grated Parmesan, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Prick the aubergines a few times with a fork and place them on a baking tray with the long, pointed red peppers. Cook them in the oven for about 30 minutes until the aubergine flesh is soft and cooked and the skins on the peppers are blistered and easy to remove. In summer, I would just char-grill these on the BBQ. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool. Turn the oven down to 160°C.
- Meanwhile, to make the lamb stew, add half the oil to a large high-sided frying pan on a high heat, and brown the lamb pieces in batches (don’t add too many pieces or the temperature of the oil reduces and the meat won’t brown). Transfer to a large casserole dish – I use a cast iron one.
- Once the meat is browned, add the remaining oil and lightly cook the chopped onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, green pepper, dried oregano, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer gently for a few minutes while you make the red pepper paste.
- The red peppers should be cool enough to handle now. Slip off the skins, remove the stalk and the seeds. Chop coarsely and combine with the oil, tomato paste, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Blend to a paste with a stick blender or in a liquidizer. Add a generous tablespoon of the paste to the stew, keep the rest in a jar in the fridge or freeze it in a plastic container to use for another dish. Trust me, this is so nice, you will use it all up!
- Add the tomato, pepper and onion mix to the lamb in the casserole dish, cover and leave to cook in the oven for an hour and a half. The lamb should be tender and the sauce rich and thick. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.
- Ten minutes before you want to serve the stew, prepare the aubergine ‘mash’. Cut the cooked aubergines in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh. I usually put this on a plastic plate with a lip so I can chop it coarsely with a knife first and then mash it to a coarse texture without the juices spilling everywhere. In a non-stick pan over a medium heat, melt the butter, add the flour and cook through, stirring for a couple of minutes to make a smooth roux. Gradually whisk in the milk to make a rich white sauce. Add the aubergine, grated Parmesan and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Warm it through gently.
- Serve a pool of the aubergine mash onto warmed plates with the lamb stew ladled over the top, top with chopped parsley.
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