We adapted this recipe from one in Nada Saleh’s book Seductive Flavours of the Levant. She keeps it quite simple in terms of the flavourings so we’ve added dried mint, fennel seeds and star anise. It’s even better if you leave it overnight and reheat it the next day.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large aubergine or eggplant, cut into cubes and seasoned with salt
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 star anise bulb
200g tomatoes with the passata/liquid from the tin (that’s half a tin of tomatoes)
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
250g long-grain rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain yogurt, chilli oil or mango chutney and fresh thyme leaves
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan.
2. Add the aubergine or eggplant and fry until soft and golden on both sides over a medium heat.
3. While the aubergine is cooking place the last tablespoon of olive oil in another saucepan. Add the onions and fry over a gentle heat until soft and golden (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and fry for two minutes. Add the dried mint, fennel seeds and star anise and fry for one minute. Add the tomatoes (and liquid) and sugar and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until the tomatoes have thickened, stirring from time to time to stop them sticking.
4. Add the tomato mixture to the aubergines and stir gently. Add the rice and enough cold water to cover the rice by two inches. Stir. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down to the lowest setting, place a lid on the saucepan and cook for 9-10 minutes or until the rice is almost cooked. Turn the heat off, place a piece of kitchen towel loosely on top of the rice, put the lid back on and leave for 10 minutes. Stir the rice gently with a fork, divide into bowls and serve with a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of chilli oil or a spoon of mango chutney and garnish with chopped fresh thyme leaves (or parsley, coriander or mint).
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