Spiced Lamb & Aubergine Meatloaf

This delicately spiced lamb and aubergine meatloaf has a scent of
A Thousand One Arabian Nights about it.

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Serves: 6 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: 35 mins

Straight from the Forq Kitchen!
by Daniela Bowker


Spiced Lamb & Aubergine Meatloaf

There’s something a little Middle Eastern and a little Persian about this meatloaf, but there’s nothing definitive in the recipe. It’s more an inspiration, a feeling from the ingredients. This is a meatloaf recipe that partners lamb with aubergine, that draws on the warm flavours of cumin and cinnamon and balances them against the sweet and sour of honey, vinegar, and lemon juice. This is not a typical meatloaf.

Where meatloaf should be homey, this is exotic; where meatloaf should feel simple, this has a complexity about its flavours. The meatloaf is, however, mercifully easy to prepare.

Before we go any further, shall we talk about the word ‘aubergine?’ I’m British, so what I call ‘aubergine’ is better known to American and Australian English-speakers as ‘eggplant.’ The word aubergine came to British English via French, via the Catalan word alberginia, which in term travelled from the Arabic al-bāḏinjān, which in turn sprang from the Persian, bādingān, all of which take their origin from the Sanskrit vātiṃgaṇa–a deliciously old word that means ‘anti-flatulence vegetable… just so that you know.

For the seemingly exotic ingredients, this is a straightforward meatloaf recipe that serves four people. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

As for the aubergine being a vegetable, technically it isn’t. It’s a fruit because it bears seeds. Even more precisely, it is a berry. Just like the tomato and the pepper, it is a member of the nightshade family. It also happens to be a perfect match for lamb.

I am a great lover of the tender sweetness of lamb and feel very fortunate to have ready access to high-quality locally reared meat. Even if you don’t have an abundance of sheep in your vicinity, your butcher should be able to supply you with lamb, whether roasting joints, chops, or mince. While lamb is a delicate meat, there is something quite robust about it, too. Don’t be afraid that the spices and the fragrances might overwhelm the meatloaf; in fact they all work together to enhance the lamb’s delicious flavour in this recipe.

In the list of ingredients I refer to the mysterious fig vinegar. This is a vinegar that I bought in a specialist deli for just this sort of recipe. It has a deep and complex flavour that is rich and syrupy with a pungent, acidic base. While it is a wonder, it is by no means a necessity for this meatloaf. If you don’t happen to be blessed with a bottle of it in your larder, by all means use balsamic vinegar, or even red wine vinegar, as a substitute.

But for the seemingly exotic ingredients, this is a straightforward meatloaf recipe that serves four people. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Directions

Here’s how to make this delicious recipe

Place your aubergine on a baking sheet in a hot oven–200 to 220º Celsius or 390 to 430º Fahrenheit–for 20 to 30 minutes. You need to cook the aubergine until you can pull the skin off of the fruit and reveal its tender flesh.

Remember to turn down the oven to 170º Celsius (340º Fahrenheit).

Peel the aubergine–be careful that you don’t burn or scald your hands in the process, you might wish to protect them with a clean cloth–and transfer the flesh to a mixing bowl and use a fork to break it apart. (If you wanted to make that delicious Middle Eastern staple, baba ghanoush, you would do the same thing to your aubergines to this point, and then mix them with plenty of crushed garlic, some lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil until it formed a paste.) Now tip in the remaining meatloaf ingredients and mix them together well with your hands. The aubergine shouldn’t be too to handle by now, but do take care.

When the meatloaf mixture has combined well and is holding a rough shape (this is a softer, sloppier mixture than you might be used to for meatloaf) transfer it to an oiled one pound loaf tin and bake at 170º Celsius for between 45 minutes and one hour, or until the meatloaf is pulling away from the sides of the pan and the top is browned.

Remove your cooked meatloaf from the oven and allow it to stand in its tin for fifteen minutes before turning it out onto a warmed serving plate.

Meanwhile, you can make the sweet-sour sauce to accompany the meatloaf. Soften the onion and garlic in a splash of oil over a low-medium flame. Tip in the chopped tomatoes followed by the honey, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly, put a lid on the pan, turn down the flame, and allow it to cook for five or ten minutes.

When the sauce has been cooking for five or ten minutes, give it a stir to ensure that it isn’t sticking (it has a high sugar content) and check it for flavour balance. You might find that it needs a sprinkling of brown sugar, or a squeeze more lemon juice for your liking. If it’s too thick, add some water. Stir again, replace the lid and cook for at least another ten minutes. Don’t be afraid to add more water if you think its needs thinning.

You can turn off the flame when you think the sauce is ready and leave it covered until you’re ready to serve. It might need a few moments warming through before you take it to the table with the meatloaf.

This meatloaf and sauce is perfect with some fluffy basmati rice (I rarely serve any other type of rice) and some steamed green vegetables. We have white sprouting broccoli coming off of our allotment right now, which is a delicious partner for the sweet, sour, and spicy flavours in the meatloaf.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized aubergine, weighing no less than 225g (8oz)
  • 500g (1lb) minced lamb
  • 2 slices bread, crumbed (use the crust slices of a loaf, or two slices of stale bread)
  • 1 medium-sized onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon fig vinegar
  • Juice half lemon
  • One and half teaspoons mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil for frying

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Who’s Cooking Today

Daniela Bowker

Daniela Bowker allegedly lives in the UK and supposedly writes for a living. She definitely travels and eats food for fun. She’s tried a sweet bean stew in a backstreet eatery Hong Kong, pad thai on a street corner in Bangkok, and had meroavi Yerushelami at the market in Jerusalem, not to mention reindeer in Norway, caponata in Sicily, and tagine in Morocco.

She often manages to work food analogies into her everyday writing, so do be on the look out for likening self­portraits to lasagne and multiplicitous images to cakes over on Photocritic. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram, and on Flickr, too.

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