Lamb with smokey eggplant and onion

• Serves 4 • 

This recipe is based on a type of kebab from the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, called ali nazik. The use of fried onions is a (delicious) break from tradition; do resist the temptation to use minced meat here as the texture of the cooked meat won’t be great. 

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) eggplants (aubergines)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
375 g (13 oz/ 1 ½ cups) Greek yoghurt
800 g (1 lb 12 oz) lamb neck fillet or boneless shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
50 g (1¾ oz) butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
½ tsp cumin seeds
Rocket salad and bread, to serve

Place the eggplant directly over a low gas flame and cook, turning often, for about 15 minutes or until the skin is blackened all over and the centers are very soft. Transfer the eggplants to a large bowl and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, remove the skins, peeling off as much of the blackened skin as possible. Trim the stem end then transfer the flesh to a colander and stand for about 20 minutes to allow excess liquid to drain. Finely chop the eggplant then combine it in a bowl with the garlic and yoghurt. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Using a large, sharp knife, cut the meat as finely as you can. Heat half the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat then add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 12 minutes or until golden. Remove the onion to a bowl. Melt the remaining butter in the same pan over medium, add the lamb and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon to break up the meat, or until well browned. Drain off any excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan, then add the spices and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Place the eggplant on a serving platter, then top with the lamb mixture and the onion. Serve with rocket salad and bread.

Photography by Amanda McLauchlan, www.amphoto.com.au