While I do enjoy participating in all the MENA Cooking Club challenges and appreciate any cuisine of the various countries that make us One Umma, I am bias when it comes to the Iraq challenge. I love this country so much and actually feel physical pain to what it has been reduced to. But there is no despair for those who believe, and as sure as the sun blazes in the sky, Islam will conquer and its enemies will cower.
I have chosen to make a very surprisingly simple contribution for the Iraq challenge: Iraqi aubergine rolls. I say surprising, because barring salt and oil, you only need three ingredients: aubergines, minced lamb, and tomato paste. From there, you can make it as is, or fancy it up a bit. I like to put sliced fresh tomato just before baking. I sometimes also like to flavor the meat with dried mint and allspice. If your meat is the freshest and best quality, you will hardly need to add flavorings. The tomato paste sauce can also include lemon juice for those who like some tang in their food. This recipe is very popular in Iraqi catering menus, and is actually influenced from neighboring Turkey. It can go by the name of Kebab Ismeer, or Lisan Al Qadhi.
3 medium aubergines
450g minced lamb
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 large tomato
2 cups water
salt and pepper
Cut off the top of the aubergines and peel off a strip of the skin on two slides. Slice lengthwise into six sheets each. Brush generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40 minutes. Alternatively, fry in a pan until golden (this is much more flavorsome, although much more calorific too). Set aside.
Season the minced lamb with salt and pepper (I also sometimes like to add 2 tsp of dried mint and 1/2 tsp allspice) and knead; for 18 thumb-sized rods. Sear the rods in a little oil over medium high heat until golden throughout (but still uncooked inside). Roll the kofta rods in the cooked aubergines and tidy in a deep 9-inch square oven-safe dish.
Dissolve the tomato paste in 2 cups of water (can also add the juice of a lemon here), season with half a teaspoon of salt, and pour over the rolls.
Slice a big tomato thinly, and arrange over the surface of the dish. Cover tightly in foil and bake in a preheated 400F oven for 35-40 minutes.
Serve hot with a side of steamed rice.
صحة و عافية