Purple reign

May 19, 2010

Aren’t aubergines beautiful?

I routinely wish for a luxury garment in that exact glossy colour, and have never found anything near it. The search goes on …

Winter has  finally arrived here. Last weekend while staying at our friends’ cocoonish beach house (thankyou Caro & D…) I revisited Neil Perry’s recipe for ‘Cinnamon Scented Lamb’  casserole, of which eggplant / aubergine is a central ingredient.  The recipe is a corker, from that big fat white book of his (and theirs) called Food I Love. I don’t yet have it, but it does have an awful lot of good things in it and I think it must go on my list.

Not only because I love pictures of aubergine, but also because it is a very good recipe, I’m sharing here a very slightly adapted version of Mr Perry’s dish, which is full of those irresistible Middle Eastern flavours. This quantity is quite generous for seven or eight, I’d say.


  • 1.5 kg lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 solid small aubergines, cut into large chunks
  • 6 baby aubergines, thickly sliced into rounds
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons currants
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 brown onion, halved & then sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes & juice
  • 1 small red chilli, split
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • juice 1 lemon
  • ½ bunch chopped mint
  • ½ bunch chopped coriander


  1. Sprinkle the aubergine generously with salt and leave for half an hour. Then rinse salt and any liquid away, and dry eggplant with paper towel or clean tea towel.
  2. Soak currants in vinegar in a cup or bowl.
  3. Using a cast iron cassserole or heavy pot, fry eggplant in batches in hot olive oil until golden on both sides; remove & drain on paper towel.
  4. Add lamb pieces to the pan in batches over high heat till lightly browned; set aside.
  5. Fry onion & garlic  till soft, then add tomatoes, currants, chilli, spices & stock, return lamb to pan and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 1 to 1.5 hours or till lamb is very tender.
  6. Return cooked aubergine to pan along with lemon juice & seasoning, and stir to combine. When well combined, remove from heat and add herbs.

This dish is great served with plain couscous (or rice) and steamed green beans.

While winter evenings are fab for cooking, not so great for photography – but here’s a pic of the casserole anyway to give you an idea. Shame about the lack of natural light … it actually looks much more luscious than this in real life.

Anyhoo, if you’re a meat eater, I urge you to have a go with this one. And I think I might have a crack at a vegetarian version too, with chickpeas – do you think that would work?


  1. Chick peas? Bien sur, my love! I’m happy to be a guinea pig on that particular variation.

  2. God that looks good. And as for how it no doubt smells…I really feel that pic ought to be a ‘scratch ‘n’ sniff’…

    I LOVE aubergine, but L is completely underwhelmed no matter what, which takes a bit of the sheen off preparing it… not that I allow myself to be deterred – and I exact revenge in restaurants with great speed and cunning.

  3. Thanks for that recipe, Charlotte. I had lost my cooking mojo, but one (imagined) whiff of cinnamon-scented lamb and I jumped back in the saddle…

  4. We had it again this weekend. Just as good second time around.

  5. There’s a new variety at supermarkets, sold as Graffiti, it has a rather cool cream and purple stripey look to it but although it boasts on one of those infuriating sticky labels that it does not need salting, I think the flavour is not as strong. What do others think?

  6. Graffiti!?? I refuse to buy vegetables that have funky brand names, so I shall never know. Anyone else?

  7. […] the afternoon before a biggish gathering when Senor and I stood together peering into a huge pot (of Neil Perry’s cinnamon lamb) and asked each other, ‘Do you think there’ll be […]

  8. Made this on sat night to extremely appreciative audience. So delicious and easy peasy. Sorry about the bounce back link to my blog on last comment showing a photo that pretty much looked like munt. Better food photo next time w rhubarb. (Cauliflower having a renaissance here this winter thanks to your posts.)

  9. I loved the pingback Fiona! And also, note to all shuckers, I am loving your beautiful novel for teens, Six Impossible Things. So sweet and funny.

    Everybody, go check out Fiona’s book here: http://fionawood.com/books

  10. […] have rambled here in the past about my love of eggplant in general … the fresh ones are so aesthetically appealing in […]

  11. […] visitors to this blog might recall that I am an avid fan of the […]

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